Depression and Improve Your Relationships with Interpersonal Psychotherapy
Cindy Goodman Stulberg and Ronald J. Frey
Reviewed by Henry Reed
come to address my depression as my "meat tenderizer." It gets me down and
despirited, just what I need to experience some tenderness with myself. Lighten
up! If I'm mindful enough to catch myself going on one of my bummer
monologues, I can change the subject. If I find that I'm back there again,
ruminating, this Capricorn will then stop the show and sit down for some
self-reflective listening. In the course of sharing with myself how I'm feeling,
the listening presence gradually brings me from anger to frustration, to
sadness, then longing. If the tenderizer effect works well enough, I might even
loosen up a bit, soften my goals, ease up on the throttle, and cruise for
awhile, a chance to smell the roses and find gratitude revealing a more
aesthetic truth than my annoyances, grievances, and other protests about how
things are not as they "should" be. Going for a walk is good, too.
All what I'm describing is kind of an introverted loner's approach to
dealing with the drudge depression. So I was a bit surprised
to read the in the title of what proved to be an excellent book, "Beat
depression... with Interpersonal Psychotherapy."
that I didn't think therapy was pertinent. But I think I imagined such therapy
as being of a one-on-one kind, where the therapist would be a coach, improving
my skills at unwinding and thought control. What might depression have to
do with relationships? OMG, it hit me suddently, as I realized that in my
internal, psycho medicine, self-hugging, there was an important element of
allowing myself to be OK even with a lower grade and to find myself still
lovable. There's nothing like heart open conversations with others that so heals
the heart. Of course, and suddenly, the guiding spirit of this approach to
healing became clear to me. It is the stance of the archetypal feminine, the
sense of me as "All my Relations," instead of me as "All my Qualities."
Relationship as key, of course. It's alien to the style I evolved for
protection, but actually works a lot better.
Getting on board with their approach, I imagined going through the 12 week
program they describe. They are not advocating my going to a group therapy of
their design. Talking to your doctor about your concerns is mentioned
several times, but I didn't come across a reference to, description of, or
recommendation concerning joining a therapy group. Rather, they present in some
detail 12 weeks of adventures in healing for the reader to engage. One of the
first assignments is about writing down your feelings. Along the way, finding
someone to talk to, and learning different ways of talking about problems, is
part of the lineup of missions for the reader to fulfill. I found it
inviting, creative, and holistic, involving mind, body, social and spiritual.
Reading the interview below, you will learn that in fact, they do have a group
therapy regimen that folks attend, as I would have assumed. Yet the way they
present the weekly adventures, there's certainly a sense of self-directed
care, which can include seeking hugs and support!
For me, depression is a stage in a spiral process, coming at times when
change is needed but delayed due to overinvested perspectives, and is part of
the creative cycle. Not wanting to "get rid" of stuff in me I don't like,
but rather grooming and educating those parts into transformation, I
nevertheless found their approach quite appealing and positive, quite consistent
with an unconditional acceptance of the perfection in every moment in a process
of eternal change. The biggest thing for me was to remember about my relations,
maybe give an old friend a call.
interview with Cindy Goodman Stulberg, CPsych and Ronald Frey, PhD
Compliments of the publisher, New World Library
For years, the first line of defense for depression has been pharmaceuticals,
but in their new book Feeling
Depression and Improve Your Relationships with Interpersonal Psychotherapy,
psychologists and authors Cindy Goodman Stulberg and Ronald J. Frey, PhD, say
that it is actually our relationships that offer the most effective path to
Knowing that depression is an illness as legitimate
as any physical ailment, Feeling Better helps
readers get clarity around the four main areas in life that can be contributing
factors to why people feel sad, blue, down, and depressed: life transitions,
complicated grief, interpersonal conflict, or social isolation. We hope you’ll
enjoy this short interview with Cindy and Ron about the book.
You encourage readers to
think of their depression like a broken leg. Why is that?
Unfortunately, there is
still a lot of negative stigma surrounding mental health in our society. People
accept this and blame themselves or feel ashamed if they are depressed. Many
suffer in silence. By viewing depression as a medical illness (like pneumonia or
a broken leg) people are more inclined to ask for help and to take some time off
from responsibilities so they can focus on optimizing their interpersonal
relationships. Additionally, as
others begin to see mental illness similar to a physical illness, they will
provide care, support and compassion for those suffering.
Your book Feeling Better offers an introduction to Interpersonal
Psychotherapy (IPT). What is IPT exactly?
IPT is a short-term,
research proven therapy that usually lasts 8-12 weeks. It helps clients improve
their relationships, which then improves their mood.
It provides a new set of skills you can use to conquer depression and it
can help prevent future episodes.
Two doctors created the model in the 1960s to treat adults with depression and
has been adapted for the treatment of adolescents and older adults as well. IPT
can be used in individual or group settings to treat classic depression and
related illnesses like chronic depression, postpartum depression, eating
disorders, and more.
IPT focuses on what is happening currently, not on the past. It is based on the
premise that building meaningful and constructive relationships will help you
feel better. It is structured and collaborative and helps clients articulate and
deal with their feelings in a constructive and interpersonal way. Most
importantly, it helps clients become aware of the impact their social and
intimate interactions have on their feelings and on the feeling of the
individuals they interact with.
You say in the book that
working through feelings is a lot like sorting through the stuff you’ve stored
in a messy basement. Tell us more.
You may not know everything that you have stored down in your basement.
While sorting through all your stuff, you could choose to just throw
everything away to avoid any potentially painful memories from surfacing.
Alternatively, you could sit in a chair and carefully look through what is in
all those boxes and experience a ‘mixed bag of emotions’ all alone. IPT offers a
different and ultimately more rewarding approach of going through the piles of
boxes with a friend. You’ll likely
experience some tears, some laughter, some anger, and some frustration but
experiencing these feeling with someone else is infinitely healthier than
experiencing them alone.
You say in the book that
there are four different problem areas in our lives that contribute to
depression. Please tell us what they are.
People who are experiencing conflicts or disputes,
life transitions (like a divorce, birth of a child, job loss), unresolved
bereavement, or feelings of loneliness and isolation, are at risk for
becoming depressed. IPT uses these
four areas to focus the therapy sessions and to create achievable goals. The
approach creates a very focused collaborative approach that ensures that
individuals will feel better faster.
Talk to us about the role that expectations play both in depression and the
The word expectations and
the role it plays is one of the best parts about IPT. It starts from the premise
that people and situations are not good or bad, or black or white. It is based
on the idea that in a relationship, expectations can differ or change over the
passage of time. For example, if I expect my husband to be talkative when we are
in the car together, I am going to be disappointed because that is not who he is
and he doesn’t expect himself to be talkative either. It’s not that he’s good or
bad, or I am right and he is wrong, it is that we have different desires and
In order to resolve an important conflict, you need to identify what your
expectations of yourself and others are and you need to understand what their
expectations of themselves and of you are. You then need to learn how to
effectively negotiate the differences. Identifying and managing shared and
different expectations will ensure less conflict and an improvement in mood.
What do you most hope
readers will take away from your book Feeling Better?
Our greatest hope is to
share IPT with as many people as possible, since it has been the best kept
secret in psychology until now. When people see how valuable, practical IPT is
and how much “common sense” is embedded in this mode, it is our hope that they
will realize that IPT strategies can do a lot to help them feel better again.
We also hope that bringing IPT to the general public, through this book,
will encourage communities to see the value of IPT as a first line treatment
approach for depression and that ever increasing numbers of clinicians will make
it accessible for those who would benefit from the therapy.
# # #
Cindy Goodman Stulberg, DCS, CPsych, and Ronald J. Frey, PhD, CPsych,
are the authors of
and directors of the Institute for Interpersonal
Visit them online at