Interpersonal Therapy was born in the background of attempts by some eminent psychiatrists to operationally define what psychotherapy was, in order to design research comparing medication therapy with the mainstream psychotherapy of the 1960's and 70's. Namely Psychodynamic Psychotherapy.

In this context Gerald Klerman had asked Myrna Weissman, then a young social worker, to use Aaron Beck's method of operationalising "Cognitive" aspects of dynamic therapy. Her task was to operationalise what was considered 'supportive psychotherapy' , regarded as the general form of "talking therapy" used by most psychiatrists when treating patients with antidepressants. Thus the assumptions involved were to operationalise the procedures of treatment which occurred in the absence of formal "Dynamic Therapy".

The project began in 1969 and was published in 1974. It was initially called "High Contact" and later renamed "Interpersonal Therapy" as its efficacy became evident.

The theoretical background was based on the previous works of Harry Stack Sullivan, Bowlby and Adolf Myers who incidentally would have also influenced the therapists of schools of Object Relations and Self Psychology schools of dynamic therapy. Of further interest is that this therapy emerged in the background of collaborative research into "life events" with Eugene Paykell who was visiting Yale at the time.


The originators of IPT saw two themes which needed to be investigated as arenas in which "therapy" occurred.:


Grief (e.g. complicated bereavement)

Role disputes (conflicts with important others)

Role Transitions (change of status- e.g. divorce, retirement)

Interpersonal deficits (e.g. lack of social skills, attachment problems)


IPT gained popularity especially after its efficacy was demonstrated in the Collaborative Epidemiological Study carried out in the 1980's in North America. It soon became very popular in the UK where training was disseminated. Whilst the original form of IPT was designed to avoid "transference interpretations", a "dynamic Interpersonal Therapy" format has become popular in the early 21st century, particularly in the UK.


In Australia, Graeme Smith, emeritus professor of Psychological Medicine at Monash University has been a particular advocate of Interpersonal Therapy and took part in a video instruction project to train General Practitioners while he held the chair.



Training Videos can be obtained from Professor David Clarke at Monash University.


Training at Mednet Australia

Read Myrna Weismann's outline of the origins of IPT


Read Scott Stuart (MD)'s basic guide to IPT




Interpersonal Therapy is offered as a standard form of treatment after a course of ABCCAT at Mednet Australia. Our preliminary impressions are that, by sequencing therapy in this manner, there is significant effect in maintenance of remission and improvement in patients. This hypothesis is yet to be formally tested in a controlled design.

Additionally we are now in the process of investigating the effect of sequencing ABCCAT with MBCT as yet another combination which could both improve remission rates and maintenance.

All content is copyright of Mednet.net Pty Ltd 1996. All trademarks are property of their respective owners.