Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) is used to explore how disruptions in one’s daily routine and relationships can affect their behavioral and emotional well-being. It may be used in the treatment of mood disorders and is typically administered in three stages. IPSRT may be facilitated in either one-on-one or group settings
What Is Interpersonal & Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)?
Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) is used to explore how a person’s social and daily routines impact their mood. This technique was first developed in the 1990s as a treatment for a variety of mood disorders, but is most commonly used for those with bipolar disorder. The interpersonal piece of IPSRT refers to identifying how relational stress and conflict can cause disruptions in one’s sleep quality, wake cycle, and other important aspects of daily life.1
Social Rhythm Metrics in IPSRT
Social rhythm metrics are used in IPRST to keep track of a person’s daily activities, engagements, and responsibilities. Developing this set routine can help a client and their therapist understand how certain social disruptions can impact their sleep, depression symptoms, or stress levels.2
Examples of social rhythm metrics include:
- The time you ate breakfast.
- When you went to bed.
- What time you eat dinner.
- What time you exercise.
- The amount of time spent watching television.
- When you start the work or school day.
- When you first communicated with someone
Social Zeitgeber Theory
The social zeitgeber theory focuses on how routine events or actions in a person’s life are linked to their natural rhythm. The term “zeitgeber” refers to these aspects, such as meal times, drinking habits, and other daily activities. In an IPSRT setting, a therapist will review these zeitgebers to look for how changes in this series can impact one’s mental state. The theory suggests that disruptions in a person’s natural rhythm can result in mood disturbances.
IPSRT Therapy Techniques
IPSRT therapists employ a variety of methods and tools throughout the treatment process. Sessions may be provided individually, in a group, or a combination of the two. There are three stages of IPRST–the initial stage, intermediate stage, and the final or maintenance stage.
During the initial stage of IPSRT, a clinician will review a person’s daily routine, the person’s current emotional state, and any recent changes in the person’s life. The clinician will help the client understand how certain relational and behavioral patterns can lead to mood changes. A client and their therapist will then discuss what the goals of treatment are and how they can be achieved.
After identifying their goals, a client will be asked to complete a log of their daily routine. This will include both their own individual actions as well as those they take with others. One’s social rhythm metrics will provide insight into how the person’s social patterns they have (i.e., the time they wake up, eat, or communicate with others) impact their mood overall. As a client gets used to this process of tracking, sessions will decrease from a bi-weekly schedule to once a month.
Final & Maintenance Stage
In the final stages of IPSRT, a clinician and client work together to decrease the frequency of sessions with the goal of ending treatment entirely. To do so, the therapist will continue to help a person identify and prepare for disruptions in their social rhythm so they can maintain the work they have completed throughout the IPSRT process.
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When Is IPSRT Used?
IPSRT is most commonly used for those who experience mania and bipolar symptoms. However, this approach can be used for other conditions as well, often in conjunction with another form of treatment.3 It is not designed to be a standalone method and should not be considered in lieu of medication.
IPSRT may be used in the treatment of:
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
Benefits of IPSRT
There are several benefits of IPSRT, as a person may never realize just how much minor disruptions in their daily rhythm can result in increased symptoms of mania, bipolar, or depression. Additionally, IPSRT can help clients recognize how the actions of others harm them, possibly allowing them to identify signs of a toxic relationship.
Benefits of IPSRT include:
- Improved mood: Using IPSRT can help improve a person’s overall well-being as it encourages one to address any behaviors and patterns that negatively impact their life.
- Improved sleep quality: IPSRT can help a person improve their sleep quality and possibly lessen insomnia. Identifying daily habits or events that affect a person’s sleep routine can allow them to make necessary changes.
- Improved relationships: After experiencing positive changes in mood, a person may be better able to engage with others and maintain healthy relationships.
- Improved overall health: When a person recognizes negative patterns that are impacting their life, any positive changes can help them feel better both physically and emotionally.
Is IPSRT Effective?
IPSRT is effective as part of a traditional treatment plan for mood disorders. Studies suggest that it is beneficial for young adults. IPSRT is commonly administered in conjunction with dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication. It is important that a person remains honest with their therapist about their daily routine and patterns in order for treatment to be successful.
Is IPSRT a Good Fit for Me?
Many people have found success from IPSRT for treating their bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. However, before starting therapy, you should explore different options to find the one that works best for you. One person might react positively to IPSRT while another may not. If you are interested in IPSRT, you should first consult with a therapist or medical provider to determine if it will be a beneficial element of your treatment plan.
How to Find an IPSRT Therapist
When looking for an IPSRT therapist, it’s important to find one who specializes in this treatment approach. They will have ample experience in the IPSRT process and help you determine concrete goals. You can use an online therapist directory to get started, or consider online therapy options.
Interpersonal social rhythm therapy can be beneficial for those who live with mood disorders, particularly individuals with bipolar disorder. Making healthy changes in your daily routine can help you prepare for and prevent mood disturbances and negative symptoms.