Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Interpersonal Counseling (IPC) for Depression in Primary Care

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Interpersonal Counseling (IPC) for Depression in Primary Care

Article excerpt

Interpersonal Counseling (IPC) comes directly from interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), an evidenced-based psychotherapy developed by Klerman and Weissman. It [IPC?] is a briefer, more structured version for use primarily in non-mental health settings, such as primary care clinics when treating patients with symptoms of depression. National health-care reform, which will bring previously uninsured persons into care and provide mechanisms to support mental health training of primary care providers, will increase interest in briefer psychotherapy. This paper describes the rationale, development, evidence for efficacy, and basic structure of IPC and also presents an illustrated clinical vignette. The evidence suggests that IPC is efficacious in reducing symptoms of depression; that it can be used by mental health personnel of different levels of training, and that the number of sessions is flexible depending on the context and resources. More clinical trials are needed, especially ones comparing IPC to other types of care used in the delivery of mental health services in primary care.

KEYWORDS: interpersonal psychotherapy; interpersonal counseling; depression; primary care


The implementation of the Affordable Care Act brings increasing interest in patient-centered, cost-effective models of care that expand access to mental health services for diverse populations. Broadened eligibility for Medicaid benefits and new subsidies for private coverage of low and moderate income people will bring large numbers of previously uninsured depressed people into primary care (Garfield et al., 2011). Meeting the mental health care needs of these newly insured individuals will require expanding access to evidence-based, though currently underutilized, approaches to the primary care management of depression. Primary care will remain a major resource for screening and treating depression, especially for patients with low incomes (Cooper et al., 2003; Mojtabai & Olfson, 2008) because of high prevalence, substantial morbidity, and adverse effects of depression on management of chronic medical conditions (Murray et al., 2010; Lerner & Henke, 2008; Wang et al., 2004; Kendler et al., 2009; Olfson et al., 2002; Hankerson et al., 2011; Weissman et al., 2004; Mann et al., 2004; Ormel et al., 2008). Under the traditional model of primary care treatment of depression, primary care physicians often struggle without support to manage the mental health problems of their patients. Their well-intentioned efforts are too often undermined by competing clinical imperatives to treat acute and chronic medical conditions and deliver preventive care. Moreover, primary care physicians in the United States neither have training in psychotherapy nor the time to deliver psychotherapy.

Interpersonal counseling (IPC), a brief, patient-centered approach to managing depression, lowers the burden on primary care physicians by having a mental-health worker located within the primary care setting. Interpersonal counseling is derived directly from interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), an evidence-based psychotherapy that has undergone numerous efficacy studies, and been translated and adapted for cross-cultural use (Klerman et al., 1984; Weissman et al., 2000, 2007; Markowitz and Weissman, 2012; Barth et al., 2013). This paper describes the rationale for using IPC in primary care, offers alternative models of care, and summarizes the development, evidence of efficacy, and basic structure of IPC. The paper concludes with an illustrative case vignette.


Interpersonal Counseling (IPC) is a brief manualized evidence-based treatment for evaluating and triaging patients with depressive symptoms to appropriate levels of care. It fills the gap between screening and referral of patients who may need more sustained care, while offering support, identifying resources and clarifying the psychosocial triggers that may have brought on the depressive episode. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.