Interpersonal psychotherapy

Our rating
 2 smilies: This treatment is useful. It is supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.

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 roles, or long-term grief following the loss of a loved one.

How does it work?

Sometimes problems with other people can lead to depression. Solving these problems will then help recovery. However, even if the depression is caused by something else, solving problems involving other people may still help.

Is it effective?

A number of studies show 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.

However, interpersonal psychotherapy has not received as much research as some other treatments like antidepressants or cognitive behaviour therapy. For this reason, we have not rated it as high as these treatments.

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 is a useful treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Cuijpers, P., Geraedts, A. S., van Oppen, P., Andersson, G., Markowitz, J. C., & van Straten, A. (2011). Interpersonal psychotherapy for depression: a meta-analysis. Am J Psychiatry, 168(6), 581-592.
  • Linde, K., Rücker, G., Sigterman, K., Jamil, S., Meissner, K., Schneider, A., & Kriston, L. (2015). Comparative effectiveness of psychological treatments for depressive disorders in primary care: network meta-analysis. BMC Family Practice, 16(1), 1-14.
  • Zhou, X., Hetrick, S. E., Cuijpers, P., Qin, B., Barth, J., Whittington, C. J., Xie, P. (2015). Comparative efficacy and acceptability of psychotherapies for depression in children and adolescents: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. World Psychiatry, 14(2), 207-222.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016