for Eating Disorders
CHRISTOPHER G. FAIRBURN
Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a short-term psychological treatment designed to help people identify and address current interpersonal problems. Its use in the treatment of psychiatric disorders is based on the premise that enhanced interpersonal functioning will result in an improvement in psychiatric state. IPT was developed as a treatment for outpatients with clinical depression and this remains its primary indication. It has been evaluated as a treatment for various other psychiatric disorders and increasing evidence supports its wider use. One of its strongest additional indications is for the treatment of bulimia nervosa. Some evidence supports its use in the treatment of binge eating disorder, and it is being investigated as a possible treatment for anorexia nervosa.
This chapter starts with a brief description of IPT, followed by a review of the research on it effectiveness. Finally, I consider future developments in this application of IPT.
IPT is designed to be used on an outpatient basis and generally involves 12–20 one-onone treatment sessions over 3 to 5 months. Variations on this format have been developed, ranging from brief forms of IPT for use in primary care to longer-term “maintenance” IPT for preventing recurrence in depression. IPT has also been adapted for use with adolescents and the elderly. From the outset, IPT has been a manual-based treatment. The original manual (written by Klerman, Weissman, and colleagues; published in 1984) provided a clear, nontechnical account of how to implement IPT. It has been superceded by an updated version (by Weissman and colleagues in 2000).