photo by Lina Kraftsoff
by Andrea M. Darcy
Like the idea of a therapy that is ‘interpersonal’? That helps you improve your relationships and social skills? But confused to see the terms ‘interpersonal therapy’ and also ‘dynamic interpersonal therapy‘ (DIT)?
Are they or aren’t they the same thing?
What is interpersonal therapy?
‘Interpersonal therapy’, or ‘IPT’, believes that by looking at and improving your ways of relating and connecting with others, you can improve your moods and wellbeing.
It especially looks to see if a recent and difficult life event has disrupted the ways you relate and connect, believing that life events affect our moods and relating, and vice versa.
It is a short-term therapy that focuses on the issues you are dealing with here and now. So it helps you troubleshoot current relationships, improve your communication skills, and learn how to ask for and sustain social support.
What is dynamic interpersonal therapy?
Dynamic interpersonal therapy, or ‘DIT’, is again a short-term therapy that believes how we relate directly affects our wellbeing, for better or worse. And that if we have anxiety or depression, addressing our relationships can help.
photo by Blake Cheek
But DIT is actually a brief form of psychodynamic therapy. In fact all DIT practitioners are psychodynamic therapists.
And psychodynamic psychotherapy is based on the idea that the solution to our present issues lies in the past.
So with dynamic interpersonal therapy, you will be looking at the ways you learned to relate as a child. How are they causing you stress in current relationships?
IPT vs DIT – 5 key differences
So in summary, no! These two types of therapy are not the same thing.
So then to clarify, how are they different?
1. The school of thought they arise from.
Yes, interpersonal therapy (IPT) is influenced by psychodynamic therapy. But it’s even more influenced by cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and attachment theory. It is not seen as falling under the psychodynamic umbrella but is seen as a ‘psychosocial’ therapy.
Dynamic interpersonal therapy, on the other hand, is actually a branch of psychodynamic therapy. You might even see it just referred to as ‘short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy’.
2. Where they look for the root of your issues.
They both believe the root of mood issues is in the ways we relate and connect.
IPT particularly looks at recent life challenges that have affected your relating. This could be a bereavement, significant clash with another person, the beginning or end of a relationship, an event that has left you isolated and alone, an illness, or moving abroad.
DIT, on the other hand, looks to the past and the patterns of relating you learned as a child.
3. Who can offer interpersonal therapy?
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a training a therapist from any school of thought can elect to undertake.
Dynamic interpersonal therapy (DIT) is exclusively offered by psychodynamic therapists with at least 150 hours of experience.
4. Research and recommendations.
Some therapies become the subject of more research than others, often as they are cost efficient for governments. This sees them labelled as ‘evidence based’. It’s not to say other therapies aren’t as effective, it just means they are less proven.
IPT is currently more evidence based than DIT. But DIT has had more attention of late and now both IPT and DIT are recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for depression.
5. What issues they can help with.
Again, they both are recommended for depression. Both are used to help anxiety as well. And naturally they both help with relationships and loneliness.
Interpersonal therapy is also used to help substance abuse disorders, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders. It can also help with life changes, grief, a midlife crisis, and PTSD from a difficult experience.
Both of these therapies are time-limited and ‘brief’ over long-term. IPT usually lasts 12 to 16 weeks but can also be offered in as few as 8 sessions. DIT is generally done in a full 16 sessions.
Note that interpersonal therapy can sometimes be used as a ‘maintenance therapy’ for depression. So you might, say, over the course of a few years go see an IPT therapist every now and then to check in on how you are coping post depression.
So which therapy is for me?
Did you have a tough childhood and learn poor relating skills from parents, or never feel loved? DIT can help you work through these past relationship problems.
Did you recently experience a substantial life change such as a bereavement, breakup, new job, illness, or big move? Interpersonal therapy focuses on how life changes affect us.
Do you hate talking about the past? Even if you did have a tough childhood, if you find talking about your past overly upsetting? Then IPT might be a better fit, with its focus on the present day.
Want to work with an interpersonal therapist or DIT therapist? Harley Therapy connects you with highly trained and friendly therapists from its central London clinics or online. Or use our booking platform to find affordable interpersonal therapy and DIT across the UK.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and writer. She also runs a consultancy helping people find their perfect therapy and therapist. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy