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Global Mental Health

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

About

IPT is a time-limited psychotherapy that focuses on interpersonal problems and crises that trigger and maintain psychological distress. First developed in the 1970’s, IPT was initially provided as a treatment for acute depression. The original IPT manual was published in 1984. Since that time, IPT has been tested for a variety of mood (depression and bipolar) disorders and non-mood ones (PTSD, eating disorders, etc), in different populations, settings, and age groups (from adolescents to the elderly). Adaptations of IPT can be delivered in person or by phone. 

Klerman, G.L., Weissman, M.M., Rounsaville, B., Chevron, E.S. , Interpersonal Psychotherapy of Depression, 1984, New York:Basic Books.

 

How it Works

IPT can be provided in individual or group formats and works by strengthening the person’s interpersonal functioning, communication skills, and ability to mobilize social support and resources to reduce the burden of depression, anxiety and trauma-related symptoms. When an acute interpersonal crisis occurs and the person struggles to manage it due to personal vulnerability and/or deficient social support structures, distress can result in the form of depression, anxiety, and trauma-related symptoms.  

Our Studies

Our global mental health group has led randomized controlled trials of IPT with depressed adults in HIV-affected communities, and adolescents living in internally-displaced persons camps in Uganda. These studies were conducted in collaboration with colleagues at Columbia University who provided the training, supervision, and implementation monitoring of the IPT intervention in each context. They were the first trials of an evidence-based psychotherapy provided by non-mental health professionals in Africa.

Southern Uganda

In Masaka and Rakai Districts, southern Uganda we completed a randomized controlled trial comparing group IPT with a wait-control condition. Study participants were male and female adults who were affected by the HIV-crisis and who presented with elevated depression symptoms and functional impairment as assessed by locally adapted measures. The cluster randomized trial was conducted in 30 rural villages, with 15 allocated to have groups receiving IPT and 15 allocated to a wait-control condition. In the IPT villages, 8 villages recruited male participants and 7 villages recruited female participants. IPT was provided in weekly 90-minute sessions for 16 weeks. This trial found that IPT was effective at reducing symptoms of depression and impaired functioning compared to the wait-control condition. At the post-intervention assessment, 54.7 percent of the participants in the wait-control condition continued to meet criteria for major depression, while only 6.5 percent of the IPT participants met the same criteria. When study participants were re-assessed at 6-month follow up, the impact of IPT on depression and impaired functioning was maintained.

 

Northern Uganda

In Gulu District, northern Uganda, we completed a trial in 2 internally-displaced persons (IDP) camps comparing group IPT with an NGO psychosocial creative play program with a wait-control condition. Study participants were male and female adolescents (ages 14-17 years), who were affected by the ongoing civil war and violence in the region and  presented with elevated depression and functional impairment as assessed by locally adapted measures. Youth allocated to IPT were placed into one of 12-single sex groups with IPT facilitators of the same sex. Groups met weekly for approximately 1.5 hours for 16-weeks. Participants in the IPT program experienced, on average, significant improvements in depression scores compared with the control and psychosocial program, with the girls showing the greatest improvements.

 

 

For more information about IPT generally, please go to www.interpersonalpsychotherapy.org. For questions specifically related to international application of IPT or for international adaptations or trainings, please contact Dr. Lena Verdeli at verdeli@tc.columbia.edu.