Open Access Open Badges Research article

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) for late-life depression in general practice: uptake and satisfaction by patients, therapists and physicians

Digna JF van Schaik12*, Harm WJ van Marwijk2, Aartjan TF Beekman1, Marten de Haan2 and Richard van Dyck1

Author affiliations

1 GGZ Buitenamstel and Department of Psychiatry, Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine (EMGO), VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Department of General Practice, Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine (EMGO), VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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Citation and License

BMC Family Practice 2007, 8:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-8-52

Published: 13 September 2007



Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is recommended in most depression treatment guidelines and proved to be a suitable treatment for elderly depressed patients. Despite the favorable results of IPT in research populations, the dissemination to general practice is surprisingly limited. Little is known about uptake and satisfaction when this therapy is introduced into real-life general practice.


Motivation and evaluation of patients, GPs and therapists were recorded and organizational barriers described alongside a randomized controlled trial. IPT, given by mental health workers, was compared with usual general practitioner (GP) care. Included were patients (≥55 years) who met the DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder.


Patients were motivated for the psychotherapy intervention: of the 205 eligible patients, 143 (70%) entered the study, and of the 69 patients who were offered IPT, 77% complied with the treatment. IPT proved to be an attractive therapy for patients as well as for therapists from mental health organizations. General practitioners evaluated the intervention positively afterwards, mainly because of the time-limited and structured approach. Organizational barriers: no IPT therapists were available; an IPT trainer and supervisor had to be trained and training materials had to be developed and translated. Additionally, there was a lack of office space in some general practices; for therapists from private practices it was not feasible to participate because of financial reasons. IPT was superior to usual care in patients with moderate to severe depression.


As we succeeded in delivering IPT in primary care practice, and as IPT was superior to usual care, there are grounds to support the implementation of IPT for depressed elderly patients within general practice, as long as the practices have room for the therapists and financial barriers can be overcome. Consolidation may be achieved by making this intervention available through practice nurses or community psychiatric nurses who deliver IPT as part of a more comprehensive depression management program.