Is Interpersonal Therapy CBT?


There are so many different kinds of therapy, it’s no wonder it’s confusing to some people. Interpersonal therapy is one of the types of therapy you hear about. But is CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, the same thing?

Here’s what I know from seeing a few therapists over many years:

Interpersonal therapy is not cognitive behavioral therapy. While both are forms of psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy is specifically for treating depression, but focuses on the person’s relationships and communication skills, whereas CBT focuses on changing behaviors and thoughts to treat a wide variety of issues.

But it’s not quite that simple.

There are so many different types of therapy, and so many different education levels and experience levels of the practitioners who offer these therapies.

So in this article, we’re exploring all of that and more. Let’s get into it.

What is the difference between cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is rooted in the idea that psychological issues are rooted in poor choices and behaviors, and that if we change those choices and behaviors, improvement follows. Interpersonal therapy, by comparison, is used specifically for depression and focuses on our relationships as the cause.

So they aren’t the same thing.

Interpersonal therapy follows the train of thought that it is our interpersonal relationships that steer us in the right or wrong directions. Not that that makes it other people’s fault if we aren’t where we want to be.

After all, we are in charge of who is in our lives and what level of power we give them over us.

Is cognitive-behavioral therapy a form of psychotherapy?

Yes, cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy. With CBT, we get to examine our beliefs, choices, and actions. And the idea is that simply by changing those things, we can change the outcome of our life.

And as with most things, if we simply and actively practice doing and saying different things, even if it feels foreign at first, it will become a habit.

Then, we can begin to see and feel real change.

What does interpersonal therapy focus on?

In short, interpersonal therapy focuses on treating depression specifically by helping the person being treated learn to communicate more effectively with others and learn to set healthy boundaries.

And interpersonal therapy has fantastic results!

It’s been shown to be just as effective as medication in treating the symptoms of depression. (source). While the person may well come out of therapy with a different point of view of the people in their lives, ultimately with the symptoms of depression reduced, most people find their relationships with others much improved.

Learn more about interpersonal therapy and how it can help you over at BetterHelp.

What is the best type of psychotherapy?

The best therapy is the one where you have a connection with the therapist, and they have the education and experience to help you navigate your life and challenges.  So the therapist is ultimately more important than the type.

So personally, I have always preferred psychologists with a PH.D. as that means they have a significant amount of experience compared to those with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees.

But I’ve met and worked with a few who didn’t have the doctorate who was still great.

So ultimately, whether you choose CBT, interpersonal therapy, or Psychodynamic therapy, focus on finding a therapist who makes you feel comfortable, and with whom you will be able to speak freely.

Final Thoughts

So we took a deep look at CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, and interpersonal therapy.

We explored their similarities as well as some key differences. After all, while there are some correlations between the two, they really are fairly different.

Ultimately, any therapy is better than none, and finding the right therapist is often more important than the type of therapy they offer.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

Recent Posts