Interpersonal psychotherapy

Our rating
 3 smileys: This treatment is very useful. It is strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.


The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • Exclamation MarkSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Interpersonal psychotherapy helps a depressed person solve problems with other people. Such problems might involve disputes with others, feeling isolated, problems in changing social roles, or long-term grief following the loss of a loved one.

How does it work?

IPT is based on the idea that the way you feel can be affected by events in your life and particularly your relationships with other people. These problems might include grief after the loss of someone close, conflict with other people, difficulty changing roles and problems forming relationships. IPT teaches strategies for dealing with each of these types of problems. The aim is that by changing your circumstances, and improving your relationships with other people, you can improve your mood.

Is it effective?

Several studies have shown that interpersonal psychotherapy helps people with mild or moderate depression. Many studies have found it works about as well as antidepressant drugs and other talk therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). IPT has been found to be effective for many different types of people, including adolescents, the elderly, new mothers and people living with chronic illnesses.

Are there any disadvantages?

Interpersonal psychotherapy will involve seeing a therapist weekly for several months. It can be expensive, although in Australia Medicare provides rebates for visits to clinical psychologists, psychologists and other therapists (see below).

Where do you get it?

IPT is generally provided by therapists such as clinical psychologists, psychologists or counsellors who have been specially trained to provide this therapy (see Psychologists and other therapists). In Australia, Medicare provides rebates for visits to some therapists under the Better Access to Mental Health Care scheme. IPT may also be covered by some private health insurance funds and is sometimes available from therapists employed in hospitals or government-funded clinics.

You can learn more about interpersonal therapy techniques for depression in e-couch, our free interactive online program.


Interpersonal psychotherapy appears to be an effective treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Cuijpers P, Geraedts AS, van Oppen P, Andersson G, Markowitz JC, van Straten A. Interpersonal psychotherapy for depression: a meta-analysis. The American journal of psychiatry. 2011; 168(6): 581-92.
  • Linde K, Rücker G, Sigterman K, Jamil S, Meissner K, Schneider A, et al. Comparative effectiveness of psychological treatments for depressive disorders in primary care: network meta-analysis. BMC Family Practice. 2015; 16(1): 1-14.
  • Weersing VR, Jeffreys M, Do MT, Schwartz KT, Bolano C. Evidence Base Update of Psychosocial Treatments for Child and Adolescent Depression. Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology : the official journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53. 2017; 46(1): 11-43.
  • Zhou X, Hetrick SE, Cuijpers P, Qin B, Barth J, Whittington CJ, et al. Comparative efficacy and acceptability of psychotherapies for depression in children and adolescents: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). 2015; 14(2): 207-22.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019