Adaptations of IPT: What works for whom?

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) was initially developed for the treatment of adult depression and has been adapted for different disorder, ages, cultures, settings, methods of implementation (e.g. group, telephone) and level of therapist training, with over 100 clinical trials. Thus IPT can work for many groups and situations. IPT is a recommended treatment by the World Health Organization (, is part of treatment guidelines in UK and US and has been translated into numerous languages. The question of what works for whom can best be answered by controlled clinical trials and implementation studies. The most up to date review of adaptations, translations and efficacy data can be found in Weissman, Markowitz and Klerman 2018.

The evidence for the efficacy of IPT for adolescents and adults with major depression is very strong except for the very oldest depressed patient where results were equivocal. Efficacy for depression has been demonstrated across different economic, educational, racial backgrounds and settings in studies from the U.S., Europe, Canada, South America, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The adaptations required have been minimal. Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of IPT during pregnancy and the post-partum period. The transition problem area fits readily into the issues of pregnancy and child bearing. The adaptations and evidence for efficacy of IPT for bipolar disorders is very strong in combination with medication and for maintenance treatment. The evidence for dysthymia or persistent depression is less strong, mainly shown as an adjunct to medication. The evidence for substance related and addictive disorders are sparse and thus far negative or equivocal. One recommendation is to use IPT in patients once sober to help rebuild their lives. For eating disorders, no psychotherapy, including IPT has been shown to be effective for anorexia nervosa. However, the efficacy of IPT for binge eating is very strong both as individual or group treatment. New findings show the efficacy of IPT for PTSD as an alternative therapy and, also for social anxiety disorder as an alternative to CBT. The evidence for borderline personality disorder is sparse and no conclusion can be drawn.


Weissman, M. M., Markowitz, J. C., Klerman, G. L. The Guide to Interpersonal Psychotherapy. Oxford Press 2018