The implementation of IPT for eating disorders differs from traditional IPT for depression in several ways. First, IPT for eating disorders links interpersonal problems to eating disorder symptoms and changes in body weight, rather than depressive symptoms. The trajectory of therapy depends on the specific type of eating disorder being treated, and thus may differ for an individual suffering from BN versus BED. Second, depressed individuals with the IPT focus of interpersonal deficits have traditionally been conceptualized as having few to no social ties. In eating disorders, however, it is more common to identify interpersonal deficits for patients who experience poor-quality social ties, or chronically unfulfilling relationships (Tanofsky-Kraff & Wilfley, 2010; Wilfley et al., 2003). Thus, a clinician working with a patient with eating disorders with interpersonal deficits will often focus on helping the patient develop more satisfying relationships, rather than initiating new ones.

IPT for depression was originally formulated to treat a discrete depressive episode and thus focused on life events that contributed to its onset (Markowitz, 2003). IPT for eating disorders (IPT-ED) conceptualizes symptoms as recurring and chronic and thus centers on interpersonal factors that maintain, as well as trigger, eating disorder symptoms. Finally, IPT-ED uses a timeline to chart interpersonal events, eating disorder symptoms, and weight change over time to enhance the interpersonal inventory. This provides the clinician the opportunity to concretely depict the connections between the patient’s interpersonal ups and downs and the waxing and waning of eating disorder symptoms.

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