Supportive and interpersonal psychotherapy approaches






Supportive and interpersonal psychotherapy approaches

With the prevalence of mental disorders, researchers and healthcare providers have studied the efficacy of different psychotherapy approaches to determine the most efficient strategies that can be used in assisting patients with particular psychiatric disorders. Supportive psychotherapy along with interpersonal psychotherapy are prevalently used in the treatment of mental disorders. These two approaches have various similarities as well as differences. Herein, I will discuss the two psychotherapy approaches, their similarities, differences, and situations in which each of the approaches would be effective in the treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders.

Similarities and Differences of Supportive and Interpersonal Psychotherapy Approaches

Supportive psychotherapy approach refers to a form of psychotherapeutic strategy that combines psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral as well as interpersonal conceptual approaches of psychotherapy and techniques (Wheeler, 2014). With this psychotherapy approach, the major aim of the therapist is to improve the adaptive along with healthy patterns of the patient with the major objective being to reduce the prevailing intrapsychic conflicts contributing to the patient’s condition. On the other hand, the interpersonal approach refers to a brief, interpersonal focused strategy, which concentrates on identifying and resolving the prevailing interpersonal problems to alleviate the presenting symptoms (Wheeler, 2014). The therapist is essentially concerned with the interpersonal context and the associated factors that may predispose, propagate or precipitate the symptom of psychiatric disorders.

Both approaches are mainly aimed at bringing a therapeutic impact to patients presenting with the symptoms of psychiatric conditions. However, the two approaches have differences. Firstly, the interpersonal approach is an emphatically supported treatment model that mainly adheres to a highly structured and time-limited approach that often takes between 12 to 16 weeks (Cuijpers et al., 2016). Conversely, the supportive approach is not structured and utilizes a combination or either the psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral and/or interpersonal conceptual approach. What is more, as highlighted in the above paragraph, the main aim of the supportive approach is to enhance the patient’s healthy as well as adaptive patterns in order lessen the prevailing intrapsychic conflicts contributing to the development of mental disorders. Conversely, the main aim of using the interpersonal approach is to identify and resolve any prevailing problematic interpersonal relationships. As such, therapist are necessitated to evaluate the relational aspects of patients that may be impacting the patient.


According to Ashman et al. (2014), the supportive psychotherapy approach is mainly used in the treatment of patients with behavioral psychiatric problems such as alcoholism, addiction or eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa. With the use of this approach, the therapist assists the patients with behavioral problems to adopt and sustain healthy and efficient coping mechanisms to resolve their prevailing problems. On the other hand, the interpersonal psychotherapy approach is mainly used in the treatment of mental disorders that are related to the way people interact with family members or in other social organizations (Cuijpers et al., 2016). Essentially, by addressing the underlying relations problems, this approach can be used in lessening the symptoms of mental conditions such as depression, alcoholism, and other associated disorders.

As a nurse therapist, I prefer using the interpersonal approach in addressing problems presented by patients with mental conditions. Essentially, this is because the approach emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships. As highlighted by Cuijpers et al. (2016), poor interpersonal relationships contribute significantly to the development of the majority of psychiatric disorders including those related to the behavior and mood of individuals. These two aspects, mood, and behavior contribute significantly in the development of mental disorders. According to Gelo, Pritz, and Rieken (2014) who delves the efficacy of the psychotherapy approaches in the treatment of mental disorders, the interpersonal psychotherapy approach is more efficient in the treatment of the majority of psychiatric conditions compared to the supportive psychotherapy approach which is limited to behavioral problems.




Wheeler, K. (Ed.). (2014). Psychotherapy for the advanced practice psychiatric nurse: A how-to guide for evidence-based practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Ashman, T., Cantor, J. B., Tsaousides, T., Spielman, L., & Gordon, W. (2014). Comparison of cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive psychotherapy for the treatment of depression following traumatic brain injury: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of head trauma rehabilitation29(6), 467-478.

Cuijpers, P., Donker, T., Weissman, M. M., Ravitz, P., & Cristea, I. A. (2016). Interpersonal psychotherapy for mental health problems: a comprehensive meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry173(7), 680-687.

Gelo, O. C., Pritz, A., & Rieken, B. (Eds.). (2014). Psychotherapy research: Foundations, process, and outcome. Springer.