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Dynamic interpersonal therapy

Dynamic interpersonal therapy (DIT) can help people with emotional and relationship problems.

When a person can deal with relationship problems more effectively, their psychological symptoms often improve.

DIT is a time-limited psychodynamic therapy. Time-limited therapy happens over a fixed number of sessions. One of the main ideas in psychodynamic therapy is that when something is very painful we can try to ignore it. It’s a bit like the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’. 

Most of the time we know when we’re doing this, but sometimes we bury something so successfully that we lose sight of it completely. This is why difficult experiences in the past can continue to affect the way we feel and behave in the present. 

DIT provides a safe place to talk openly about how you feel and to understand what might be causing your difficulties. 

Issues we can help with

Dynamic interpersonal therapy can help people with emotional and relationship problems. It has been developed for the treatment of depression and anxiety.

Length of treatment

Dynamic interpersonal therapy usually lasts for 16 sessions. Therapy sessions are 50 minutes long and take place weekly.

Initial phase

Dynamic interpersonal therapy does not have an assessment period like other therapies. Instead it has an initial phase. The length of the initial phase is not fixed to a certain number of sessions.

During the initial phase your therapist builds a picture of what you find difficult in your life and how this affects you and people close to you. A questionnaire is used to help with this. They ask some questions, but you only need to give as much information as you feel comfortable with. Many people find that as therapy gets going they are able to talk more openly.

When your therapist has enough information they begin to think with you about what it would be most helpful for you to focus on over the 16 sessions. 

Therapy sessions

You may find that your therapist is more ‘silent’ than you are used to. At the start of each session your therapist greets you, but beyond this may not ask questions. Instead they wait to hear from you about what is on your mind. This isn’t because they’re unfriendly, but because they want you to have space to work out what is on your mind. This can take a while to get used to, but your therapist knows how hard it can be and helps if you find this difficult. 

Dynamic interpersonal therapy uses what happens in the relationship between you and your therapist to help think about the problems in your life. This means that your therapist often draws your attention to what you feel in the session. The idea is that by exploring the relationship between you and your therapist, you get a better understanding of what is troubling you. 

You may find that your therapist doesn’t always answer your questions directly. Sometimes they may be interested in what lies behind your questions. For example, someone who is very worried about therapy may not feel able to say this. Instead they may ask lots of questions about what therapy involves. Rather than answering them directly, the therapist may notice that behind the questions is a worry about beginning therapy. Helping the patient talk about this, rather than answering all the questions, is a more helpful way forward. 

Risks and side effects

Talking and thinking about emotional problems can be difficult. For this reason some people can feel worse before they feel better. We work with you to manage strong emotional reactions.

Questions or worries

Therapy can bring up difficult issues. We want you to feel able to discuss any questions or worries with your therapist. This is important to progress your therapy. 

If you would like to discuss any concerns with someone independent of your therapy please contact our patient advice and liaison service.