Interpersonal Process Therapy for Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Interpersonal Process Therapy for Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Interpersonal process therapy for substance abuse (IPT) concentrates on relieving symptoms by improving an individual’s interpersonal functioning. It looks at current relationships and problems instead of childhood or developmental issues. In IPT, the therapists are active, non-neutral, supportive, and hopeful and offer alternatives for change. In general, IPT is:

  • structured
  • time-limited (the active stage is typically 12 to 16 weeks)
  • focused on interpersonal relationships and communication
  • focused on current relationships,
  • aimed at improving interpersonal functioning and social support
  • practiced in one-to-one and group settings

Individual Interpersonal Process Therapy

Individual interpersonal psychotherapy treatment usually consists of individual therapy sessions, one-on-one with a trained therapist, in a safe, confidential setting. Individual therapy is a popular therapy method and it’s an effective way to focus on personal issues. It helps you address specific problems and even improve interpersonal relationships. IPT is structured with:

  • homework
  • continuous evaluation
  • interviews by the therapist

The first phase often involves several sessions when the therapist will assess depressive symptoms and examine the patient’s social history and close relationships. This includes any changes in relationship patterns. Second, the therapist works with the patient to carry out treatment strategies that are specific to any recognized problem areas. As treatment goes on, a targeted problem area may change.

Interpersonal Process Therapy Group

Group therapy is a method that provides noticeable benefits apart from individual therapy. In interpersonal process groups, people examine their roles in social situations and learn about their habits when forming relationships. It also gives group members a feeling that they aren’t alone in their struggles.

An IPT group is a group of typically 6 to 8 people who meet weekly with one or two therapists to work through related issues that lead to psychological symptoms or dissatisfaction with relationships. The groups may be co-ed or they may be gender specific. Group sessions typically last for 75 to 90 minutes.

The Psychotherapy Interpersonal Process Group

interpersonal process therapy

Interpersonal process group therapy is a powerful way to learn about yourself and your relationships with other people. Individuals who join an interpersonal therapy group usually want to be able to relate with other people better and feel better about themselves. Regrettably, many people confuse group IPT with support groups, where people talk about shared experiences and offer encouragement to one another. Although support groups can be helpful, they are not the same as what occurs in a well-led interpersonal group.

Why Join an IPT Group?

Reasons that a person might want to join an IPT group, include:

  • Feeling angry, frustrated, or unsatisfied in relationships often
  • Having issues with trusting other people
  • Struggling to build close or meaningful relationships
  • Often feeling that you have to please others
  • Depending on drugs or alcohol to socialize
  • Having trouble directly communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs
  • Being easily controlled (or controlling) in relationships
  • Feeling that your relationships are shallow
  • Feeling anxious in social situations
  • Experiencing loneliness frequently
  • Manipulating others to get your needs met
  • Having problems with self-esteem

5 Things You Can Learn From an IPT Group

interpersonal process therapy in washington

Interpersonal process group therapy is about encouraging effective and lasting change that will improve your relationships. While individual therapy helps you break through walls and learn more about yourself, your interpersonal relationships will still suffer if you don’t know how to make a change. An IPT group provides you with a safe, supportive environment in which to learn how to make needed changes. In group therapy, you get the experience and benefit of:

Peer Support

Group therapy helps the members open up, give and receive support, and learn about each other.

Improve Communication Skills

Group therapy provides opportunities to learn how to set and maintain boundaries, show respect, and communicate your thoughts and emotions effectively.

Build Connections

Attending interpersonal process group sessions teaches you active listening skills and how to be a good friend. People will be more likely to trust and talk to you if you better understood.

Improved Sense of Understanding

It’s easy to feel like you’re the only person with certain problems. Taking part in group therapy teaches you that others have gone through similar experiences and that you aren’t so different. This understanding helps eliminate the lonely feelings you may experience.


It can be risky to put yourself out there. You may lose friends or mess up relationships. This is why many people choose to close themselves off from new people. Still, the rewards of learning to be vulnerable releases anxiety, can strengthen relationships, and lead to more confidence.

What Is the Role of the Therapist?

The role of the therapist facilitating a process group is to:

  • Identify problem thoughts and behaviors
  • Model effective communication
  • Suggest methods to solve problems
  • Foster support and self-acceptance

With each session, you’ll learn new ways of coping and interpersonal relationship skills that will lead to better relationships and a more fulfilling life.

Common Topics for Process Groups

interpersonal process therapy in ocean park


Everyone needs a certain amount of self-care to feel centered and whole. Self-care is the process of taking steps to preserve or improve your mental and physical health. Discussions of self-care can help you remember to take care of yourself even while dealing with your distressing experiences. Therapists might look at different ways each member could practice self-care as well as offer self-care group exercises.

Coping Mechanisms

Everyone copes with challenging experiences and emotions in a different way. The way you cope with them is either learned or developed over the years. Some coping strategies aren’t healthy so exploring healthy coping mechanisms is a valuable therapy topic.

Short and Long Term Goals

Therapists often start a series of exercises or discussions to help group members identify their short- and long-term goals for what they want to get out of their time in the group and what they want to change in their daily life.

Communication Skills

Topics naturally end up in the discussion or practice of communication skills. When communication doesn’t happen naturally, the common path to take is to talk about communication skills as a whole. But to develop communication skills in a process group, the therapist may allow for communication activities and skill development sessions.

Support Systems

Process group therapy is meant to be a support structure for people dealing with challenging situations or uncommon experiences. This is particularly helpful for people who don’t have other support systems. A therapy topic might include talking about their support systems outside of therapy, how to make them stronger, or what healthy support might be for each member.

10 Tips on How to Get the Most Out of IPT

Pay Attention to Your Moment-To-Moment Experience

Be sure to notice your thoughts and feelings in the context of the group. This helps you understand how to relate to events from your past and their impact on relationships.

Assume That Authenticity and Spontaneity Are Encouraged and Valued

Set aside everyday social filters in favor of honest and direct communication.

Observe Your Non-Verbal Communication

Notice what you’re communicating non-verbally. This increases your awareness of what you’re feeling and the messages you’re sending to others.

Keep an Attitude of Curiosity About Your Own Behavior

This opens your awareness of alternative ways of connecting with others.

Avoid Asking Questions

Focus on making statements about your own experience. Questions can disrupt the group process. Instead, make statements about your own internal process. This is important for effective group work.

Notice What You Avoid Talking About in the Group

Being aware of what you avoid talking about can help you learn more about yourself.

Ask For Feedback and Be Willing to Give Feedback to Others

Feedback helps you develop an awareness of your blind spots and the way you affect others.

Talk About the Relational Patterns You’re Creating With Others

Awareness of this helps you understand the unhealthy and healthy dynamics you tend to create.

Share the Things You Think Don’t Make Sense or Are Illogical to You

It can be helpful in group to share feelings and thoughts you’re having that aren’t quite clear.

Bring up Any Worries You Have About the Group in the Group

It’s common to have frustrations about different aspects of the group experience. Bringing up these worries can be helpful to the group process.

How Can Free by the Sea Help Me With Interpersonal Process Therapy?

interpersonal process therapy in WA

At Free by the Sea, we are experienced in treating mental health and substance abuse problems. And the cornerstone of our treatment includes IPT along with behavioral therapy. We know that mental disorders contribute to substance use disorders very often.

Approximately 50% of people with severe mental disorders are also affected by substance abuse. Furthermore, 53% of drug abusers and 37% of alcohol abusers are also suffering from at least one serious mental illness.

In response to this, we have developed a dual diagnosis program, specifically meant to address the problem of co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders. In addition, we can offer four levels of care including:

Don’t leave your recovery to chance. Contact us today and discover the many specialized programs we have available to ensure your best opportunity to recover.

Get in touch with Free by the Sea

(844) 906-2300

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