What happens in therapy for depression?

A recently-developed therapy is gaining evidence for its effectiveness in treating depression in adults and teens. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) may be the right choice for some people.
 
The version now in use with adolescents was first published in 1993, building on work with adults from the late 1960s.
 
What’s it about? It’s based on the idea that people become depressed if key interpersonal relationships are not working well. By focusing on the problem area in therapy the client is helped to improve their relationships and so resolve their depression.
 
IPT identifies a person’s difficulties in one or more of four problem areas:
 
Complex grief caused by death, separation or other losses. This is more than what could be called ‘normal grief’ where sadness and depression are distinct. For example, an adolescent may have unresolved feelings of desertion and guilt, or have experienced multiple losses.

Interpersonal disputes with significant others; for example, a teenager in repeated cycles of conflict with parents/carers over behavior, appearance, values, expectations, etc., who becomes depressed because they feel powerless to make any change happen.

Role transitions, such as changing schools, entering puberty, emerging sexuality, changes in family circumstances; for example, after a marital separation the things expected of a young person can change significantly, and can seem impossible.

Interpersonal gaps, such as difficulties initiating and maintaining friendships, leading to feelings of failure, isolation and depression.
 
In the therapy, the counsellor together with the young person has a good look at the current situation and identifies the key problem area. The thoughts and feelings associated with the situation are talked about openly.
 
The counsellor then helps the teen develop strategies and acquire skills to improve their social relationships, adapt to new situations (or change them), resolve conflicts, and safely acknowledge and express their grief.
 
Parents/carers can assist by better understanding their adolescent’s difficulties and become co-therapists in supporting the changes that will make a positive difference.
 
Martin Graham
School Counsellor
 
Information about school counselling is at {base_url}/learning-teaching