Interpersonal therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which the focus is on a client's relationships with peers and family members and the way they see themselves. Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is based on exploring issues in relationships with other people. The goal is to help people to identify and modify interpersonal patterns of relating, to understand and to manage relationship problems.

In the first phase of IPT, the therapist and client identify which problems in the clients interpersonal relationships need exploration. This phase is led by the therapist, who builds a "history" of the client in order to help the client identify interpersonal problems. The next phase is driven by the client; the therapist helps maintain focus and encourages change. Finally, in the last phase, both the therapist and client explore what has been achieved and what has not, and focus on the future and what changes the client can make to promote continuing improvement.

It is an active therapy that focuses on four general areas: grief, role disputes, role transitions, and interpersonal deficits. It is present-oriented and emphasises clients' exploring options and increasing their activities and social life.

Although IPT is a programmed treatment, it is flexible enough to address clients' individual problems and situations. Treatment begins by taking a history of the problem. The therapist then suggests which of the four problem areas is most relevant and then asks the client what he or she wishes to accomplish. IPT is time-limited (usually only 10 - 16 sessions long). The IPT model works from the assumption that clients suffer from chronic (mental) illness. At the beginning of treatment, the therapist may tell a client he or she is too "sick" to accomplish certain tasks, although later the therapist will strongly encourage the client to take on the same or other tasks.

Working from this "medical" model, the therapist tells the client that since he or she has already been depressed, he or she will probably be depressed again. This assumption seems to encourage the use of medication, even though clients are told to continue to address their problem areas after termination.