The Interpersonal Process Approach (IPP)

The Interpersonal Process Approach (IPP), different from Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), is a unique approach to individual therapy that is often used as a style of counseling more than a technique in itself. It integrates an individual’s relational experiences, her thoughts about herself, and her familial experiences to bring about an awareness of how these three domains impact one’s present circumstances. The therapeutic relationship becomes the healing balm in that it offers repeated corrective experiences in which clients are able to respond and be responded to in new and healthier ways. The client is then able to move past the old and dysfunctional ways of relating and acting in the world, and they can develop new relational strategies.

Through our life experiences, we all come to develop coping styles, or ways that we learn how to relate to others. Such coping styles may include: pleasing and accommodating others to avoid disagreement or conflict, exerting control over others through aggressive resistance, or even, physical avoidance, emotional withdrawal and self-sufficiency. In many instances, these coping styles may be adaptive or even necessary. But often times, these coping styles may become maladaptive, or rigidly applied, which can cause relationship problems, stress and anxiety.

By using IPP interventions such as interpersonal feedback, empathic understanding, and metacommunication, clients begin to gain confidence and move beyond their outdated coping styles and develop flexibility in relationships with others. Overtime, clients come to adapt to these new relational experiences and are able to sustain changes in their lives and in their relationships.

Some examples of process comments made by the therapist that are commonplace in IPP include:

“What’s it like for you when I am quiet and don’t say much?”

“You’ve talked about feeling like others misunderstand you. I am wondering if you feel misunderstood by me in here?”

“I feel sad as you tell me about what happened. But I notice you are smiling as you are talking about it. I am wondering what may be happening for you right now?”

As is shown in the above examples, the Interpersonal Process Approach comes from the belief that a client’s ability to expand consciousness and subsequently make life changes is attained by building an authentic therapeutic relationship and then learning to talk about that relationship. This skill is invaluable not only in nourishing and sustaining the necessary relationships we have in daily life, but also as a way of noticing our habitual ways of being and what this says about how we think and feel. We learn to track our own thoughts and feelings with greater awareness and accuracy, while also learning to express our inner experiences with others, which can result in deeper and more fulfilling connections with people in our world.

IPP can be used to address the following issues:

  • Abuse
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Habits
  • Loneliness
  • Men’s Issues
  • Perfectionism
  • Relationships
  • Shame
  • Social Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Transitions
  • Women’s Issues
  • Work