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Interpersonal psychotherapy

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for women who have postnatal depression. It tells you about interpersonal psychotherapy, a treatment used for postnatal depression. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Probably. There hasn't been much research on this talking treatment for postnatal depression. But one study found that interpersonal psychotherapy helped depressed new mothers get better faster.

Research on adults with depression at other times shows this therapy works for mild or medium depression. But there isn't enough research to show whether it helps people with bad depression.

We don't know how this treatment compares with other good treatments such as antidepressants or the talking treatment cognitive behaviour therapy.

What is it?

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a kind of talking treatment (psychotherapy) designed for people with depression. It aims to improve your relationships with other people, including your baby, and improve the social side of your life.

It's based on the idea that depression is often linked to problems with relationships, either now or in the past. These problems can include conflicts with your partner or other members of your family. You could also have problems if you feel you've lost contact with friends or colleagues you were close to before you had your baby.

These types of problems can make you become depressed. But the depression may also come first, and your mood might make conflicts or problems more likely. Either way, during interpersonal therapy, your therapist helps you to learn new and better ways of relating to people.

Most people see their therapist once a week for three or four months. [109] [121]

Interpersonal therapy is recommended for people with depression in national guidelines for doctors. To learn more, see NICE guidance on postnatal depression. But it can be hard to get this therapy on the NHS. In many places, there aren't enough trained therapists to go around.

How can it help?

If you have postnatal depression, you are likely to get better faster if you have interpersonal psychotherapy than if you don't have any treatment. [122] Your relationship with your partner and other members of your family may also improve. [123]

How does it work?

This therapy teaches you how to relate better to the important people in your life, including family and friends, as well as your baby. So, it should help if your depression was set off by relationships with other people or is causing problems with other people.

The therapy can help you make up after arguments and say what you need to say to people. It can also help you build stronger relationships with your family and friends, so you have more support.

The idea is that you are less likely to get depressed and more likely to recover from depression if you have stronger, more supportive relationships. [121]

Last Updated: July 17, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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