Originally named "high contact" therapy, IPT was first developed in 1969 at Yale University as part of a study designed by Gerald Klerman, Myrna Weissman and colleagues to test the efficacy of an antidepressant with and without psychotherapy as maintenance treatment of depression. IPT has been studied in many research protocols since its development. NIMH-TDCRP demonstrated the efficacy of IPT as a maintenance treatment and delineated some contributing factors.
IPT was influenced by CBT as well as psychodynamic approaches. It takes its structure from CBT in that it is time-limited, employs homework, and structured interviews and assessment tools.
The content of IPT's therapy was inspired by Attachment theory and Harry Stack Sullivan's Interpersonal psychoanalysis. Social theory is also influenced in a lesser role to emphasis on qualitative impact of social support networks for recovery. Unlike psychodynamic approaches, IPT does not include a personality theory or attempt to conceptualize or treat personality but focuses on humanistic applications of interpersonal sensitivity.
The aim of IPT is to help the patient to improve interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills within relationships and to develop social support network with realistic expectations to deal with the crises precipitated in distress' and to weather 'interpersonal storms'.
It has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for depression and has been modified to treat other psychiatric disorders such as substance use disorders and eating disorders. It is incumbent upon the therapist in the treatment to quickly establish a therapeutic alliance with positive countertransference of warmth, empathy, affective attunement and positive regard for encouraging a positive transferential relationship, from which the patient is able to seek help from the therapist despite resistance. It is primarily used as a short-term therapy completed in 12–16 weeks, but it has also been used as a maintenance therapy for patients with recurrent depression.