What is Interpersonal Psychotherapy?

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Conflicts among people occur because of interpersonal issues that hinder healthy communication. Interpersonal psychotherapy is a treatment plan designed to improve relationships. The goal of this therapy is to recognize the three styles of communication and become a healthy communicator.

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a learning process about how we communicate with one another. This therapy style looks at the three factors of interpersonal relationships, communication, interpretation, and expectation. When any one of these factors isn’t clearly defined or properly conveyed, a breakdown in the interpersonal relationship will begin to occur.

People are social beings who need one another to survive. Since the days of painting on cave walls, we have expressed those needs. As we have advanced, we have come to know the importance of the words we speak, the understanding we possess, and the expectationswe have of others.

What is Interpersonal Psychotherapy?

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a treatment plan for patients looking to improve their personal and social relationships. The goal is to become a better person within society. This is achieved by learning how to express ourselves while respecting others. BetterHelp has a great article on how interpersonal psychotherapy can help. 

Treatment is focused on honesty, clarity, and trust. Sessions address interpersonal issues related to the way we communicate, how we interpret another’s intent, and what we expect from the other person. Interpersonal psychotherapy requires a willingness to step back from your belief system evaluate your role in the conflict.

Interpersonal psychotherapy identifies the patterns of behavior the patient exhibits during interpersonal relationship conflicts. Therapy sessions work toward recognizing which communication style the patient is using and move towards healthy forms of communication. By understanding the different communication styles, the patient will be able to see the behavior patterns in others and respond appropriately.

Communication style results from the insecurities we feel when comparing ourselves to other people. They are built from the confidence we possess in spite of our struggles. We inherit our communication skills from those who teach us. Our style of communication is either healthy and secure or insecure and destructive.

3 Styles of Communication

Like a turtle hiding in their shell to avoid confrontationWithdrawn and quiet to stay clear of dangerCold resentment and passive aggressive angerInsecure and emotionally empty or unresponsiveFearful of abandonmentCreates imagined scenarios of betrayalRequires frequent reassurance from othersDetermined and persistent but prone to extreme emotionsNo fear Stable emotional expressionsConfident of life choices, beliefs, and idealsOpen-minded and willing to actively listen to the needs of others


Phases of Treatment

Interpersonal difficulties interfer with every type of relationship we have with others. These problems evolve from poor communication skills and misreading social cues. The first step in interpersonal psychotherapy is to identify the patterns of communication people use in order to recognize how we are communicating

Phase one is the most challenging step of this treatment because it relies on the patient to be truthful and trusting. This type of therapy will only work if the patient is willing to be open and honest. This is hard for many, since lying and being lied to are the most common tools of previous patterns of communication.

Along with complete honesty and trust, a patient must have the desire and drive to work towards being a better communicator. Life is about give and take but it’s also about balance and boundaries. Only through clear, calm, and respectful communication can we ever expect to meet our need to belong.

The second phase of treatment is designed to help the patient match a new solution to their problem using healthy modes of communicating. The changed response to the old conflict is personalized to fit the individual and the situation. Interpersonal psychotherapy has an end goal of improving the patients quality of life.

This is typically the longest of the three phases due to the complexity of human communication and interaction. Some solutions will be difficult for the patient and others will be more time consuming. Changing our way of thinking and our behavior requires inner strength and dedication.

The final phase of interpersonal psychotherapy has been reached when the patient begins to see results from the new solutions created in phase two. Once one goal is reached successfully, the patient has renewed confidence and is more motivated to continue improving. In addition, the new skills will weave together into the healthy communication style.

Reaching this step of the treatment plan also builds a stronger bond with the therapist. A new found trust of others and a better understanding of self will aid in finding solutions for other interpersonal problems. Success builds upon success which will make tackling the next problem that much easier