Optimind Clinic

Dr Gordon Wong, psychiatrist    

Psychodynamic Interpersonal Therapy

by Dr Gordon Wong, Specialist in Psychiatry

MBBS (HK), MRCPsych, FHKCPsych, FHKAM (Psychiatry), MSocSc (Couns)(South Australia), DCPsyc RCP&S (Irel), DFM (HKCFP), Dip Med (CUHK), PGDipClinDerm (QMUL)


Psychodynamic Interpersonal Therapy was developed in 1980’s by Dr Robert Hobson. It is a conversational model of psychotherapy, incorporating psychodynamic principles, humanistic elements and interpersonal concepts.

It is a powerful form of psychotherapy that allows both the therapist and the client to develop a “mutual feeling language”. Through tentative but intuitive guesses on the part of the therapist, and corrections and modifications by patient, a mutual understanding is shared and deepened. It is not a one sided relationship as in traditional psychodynamic approach, as both therapist and client are both experiencing subjects.

It typically lasts for eight sessions. The initial sessions typically include history taking, meaning that the therapist finds out more about the symptoms, and explore interpersonal difficulties. Main problem areas are identified, and a focus on what to work on is set.

The middle sessions typically include identification of factors that aggravate symptoms, review interpersonal difficulties, review client's feelings regarding the sessions, and exploration and linking of interpersonal difficulties to symptoms in both real life and during the therapy session.

The final sessions typically include a discussion on linking the ending to previous loss/dilemmas regarding intimacy. The expression of negative feelings is facilitated. Symptoms, insight and gains from therapy are reviewed. There is also be a discussion on how work can be continued by the client even though therapy ends.

I find Psychodynamic Interpersonal Therapy a powerful form of psychotherapy, as it emphasises on communication as equal parties, and a mutual and shared understanding. There is scientific evidence to show that Psychodynamic Interpersonal Therapy works well on people with interpersonal difficulties, depression, repeated self harm, and even irritable bowel syndrome.