Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy: Definitions, Techniques, and Benefits


Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) is a type of therapy that is useful for helping regulate mood states by involving natural biological and social routines. This therapy is based on the idea that a change in routine can trigger mood episodes. The subjects in question are people who are medically vulnerable, for example people with bipolar disorder.

IPSRT is considered quite effective in terms of mood enhancement . It involves the use of certain techniques in an effort to establish a regular routine. Meanwhile, the development of interpersonal relationships is also the scope that is also the focus.

1. Definition

A professor of psychology, Ellen Frank, PhD. credited with discovering this form of IPSRT therapy. His ideas are known to be contained in the scientific journal in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. According to Ellen, relationship conflicts or disruptions in daily routines can trigger mood episodes in people with mental health conditions.

IPSRT includes adjunct therapy to treat mental health problems, including bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. However, it is important to understand that IPSRT is not intended to be the primary treatment for bipolar disorder. Instead, this therapy becomes a complement to help the treatment process.

2. Technique

IPSRT can be performed in different settings, among which are:

Individually, one healthcare provider works for one patient.
Group setting, involving one or more health care providers with multiple patients.
Remote settings, namely using an internet connection with virtual conferencing .

Meanwhile, IPSRT is generally categorized into three stages consisting of:

Initial stage : The health care provider begins therapy by understanding the patient’s mood state first. Then narrow down the interpersonal problem areas that will be the focus of treatment. The time required at this stage may involve several sessions per week.
Intermediate stage : The patient maintains a daily rhythm (wake up, activity time, eating patterns, and sleeping hours). Then the health care provider reviews it at each weekly visit. This stage also focuses on developing coping mechanisms to manage changes or disturbances in daily rhythms.
Final stage : Both the patient and the health care provider work to reduce the number of therapy sessions or stop therapy gradually.

3. Conditions that can be overcome by practicing interpersonal and social rhythm therapy

IPSRT can be useful for people with certain conditions, especially mood disorders. The application of this therapy will affect:

Adherence to taking medication.
Learn to implement positive coping strategies to manage stressful events.
Minimize disruption to social rhythms.

A study in the Annals of general psychiatry in 2020 found that participants with bipolar disorder who received IPSRT experienced positive improvements in symptoms of anxiety, depression, mania, and response to mood stabilizers.

Although IPSRT was originally designed to help treat bipolar disorder, research is assessing if it can be used as a complement to other conditions, such as:

Major depressive disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Conditions caused by a grief event, such as bereavement in adults.

4. Benefits based on scientific studies

Some of the research that has been revealed shows that IPSRT can work well in some cases, including:

Bipolar disorder : Studies have shown that IPSRT can help reduce symptoms of depression and mania in patients with bipolar disorder. In addition, it also helps improve daily function, adherence to medication, and response to mood stabilizing drugs. Another study in Psychotherapy ( Chicago, III) found that IPSRT may help prevent or delay the onset of bipolar disorder in at-risk adolescents.
Depression and anxiety : A 2016 study in Current Psychiatry Reports noted that IPSRT and other social rhythm therapies may benefit people with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. This is because sufferers tend not to have a consistent daily rhythm but have an increased sensitivity to distractions.
Schizophrenia : A study published in the American Journal of Psychotherapy in 2021 notes that IPSRT can help treat symptoms of depression that people with schizophrenia may experience.

5. Things to pay attention to

Although IPSRT can be very helpful, it is complementary to the mainstay of treatment. IPSRT itself is most often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

IPSRT does not directly treat mental health conditions, but tends to create a solid basis for treatment and other types of therapy to be more effective. When the foundation is solid, it will be easier to fix the problem comprehensively.

Meanwhile, complementary IPSRT practices may require more funds and time. Anyone who wants to apply this therapy, needs to consider financial conditions and time management according to the needs of each individual.

IPSRT is a form of therapy that focuses on improving relationships and routines, in order to improve mood. This therapy can benefit people who have mental health conditions that make them prone to mood episodes.

Although interpersonal and social rhythm therapy is not intended to replace medication, it can serve as additional support. It is important for anyone to first consult with a doctor if they want to try this therapy.