Interpersonal psychotherapy for adolescents (IPT-A) for moderate to severe depression

Some evidence – there is enough evidence to indicate that this can be a helpful treatment option for young people aged between 12-17 with moderate to severe depression.

Interpersonal psychotherapy for adolescents (IPT-A) is a type of talking therapy where you meet with your therapist on your own, although there are also usually some joint meetings with your parents or carers  

IPT-A focuses on the links between your depression and what happens in your relationships with friends, family and other people. You and your therapist will work together on ways that your relationships could improve and help you to feel better.  

Interpersonal psychotherapy for adolescents (IPT-A) is usually offered over 12 individual weekly sessions. Your parents or carers will be invited to three or more extra sessions, which you will also have the option to attend. 

The initial sessions are usually focused on understanding your depression and mapping out the relationships in your life. You’ll also work out what it is you would like to be different in your relationships (your goals for the therapy). At the end of the initial stage, you and your therapist will have a shared understanding of the main type of relationship (or ‘interpersonal’) problem that might be causing your depression. This helps the therapy to be focused on the main problem affecting you and helps your therapist to think about the techniques that you are likely to find the most helpful 

There are four main types of problems you could focus on in IPT-A: 

  1. Grief where somebody close to you has died  
  2. Interpersonal conflicts – where you have a difficult relationship with one or two important people 
  3. Role transition where there has been a major change in your life, such as moving to a new country 
  4. Interpersonal sensitivities - where you have found it very difficultto make good relationships for a long time 

In the middle part of IPT-A you and your therapist will try to improve your understanding of the links between your relationships and symptoms, and try to improve your relationships. Your therapist will suggest strategies you can use to deal with problems in your relationships and practice these with you in the session. Your therapist will also talk to you about how you can involve some of the people in your life to support you in your recovery and help you plan how you might deal with any relationship problems or challenges. Your therapist might also suggest things you could practice in your relationships over the next week.  

In the final part of IPT-A your therapist will talk to you about how you feel about ending your sessions. They will discuss with you what has changed over the course of the IPT-A and why, and what has worked well. They will also talk with you how you can use what you have learned in the sessions to improve your relationships and symptoms in the future and what to do if you have a relapse.  

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

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