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An Interview with Myrna Weissman Ph.D. on Interpersonal Psychotherapy

David Van Nuys, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 1st 2007

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Myrna_Weissman, Ph.D.Dr. Weissman is one of the founders of Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), one of only a few empirically validated (EV) and manualized forms of therapy designed for the treatment of depression. Therapies that have been empirically validated have been subjected to scientific clinical trials which have demonstrated their efficacy. Manualized therapies are therapies which have been standardized into a systematic therapy protocol and plan that guides how the therapy unfolds. It is quite difficult to evaluate a non-manualized therapy. As an EV therapy, IPT is known to be an effective treatment for depression for children, adults, the elderly, and women who have recently given birth.

As the name suggests, IPT is based on the idea that depression symptoms exist as part of an interpersonal, relational context and cannot be understood independently of that context. With its emphasis on the interpersonal context, IPT is similar to family therapy and psychodynamic therapy approaches but not the same as those approaches - it focuses more on present day relationships than psychodynamic approaches and has more of a supportive psychotherapy flavor than family systems approaches. In IPT, therapists help patients to talk about what was going on for them when their symptoms first appeared. They then assign the interpersonal context of the patients' depression to one of four categories: grief, conflicts and disagreements, life transitions or too-few attachments and help patients to identify ways to resolve those issues.

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About Myrna Weissman, Ph.D.

Myrna_Weissman, Ph.D.

Dr. Weissman has a Ph.D. in Chronic Disease Epidemiology from Yale University, 1974 and clinical training. She was a Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Yale and Director of the Depression Research Unit before coming to Columbia, where she is now a Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry and Chief of the Division of Clinical and Genetic Epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Weissman is a faculty member in Epidemiology at the School of Public Health as well as in the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia. She is the Director of a core in Psychotherapy Research as part of the Center grant in Child Psychiatry. Dr. Weissman is also the lead author of the 2007 Oxford Press book, A Clinician's Quick Guide to Interpersonal Psychotherapy.

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