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Clinician’s Quick Guide to Interpersonal Psychotherapy
Reviewed by ELLEN FRANK; HOLLY A. SWARTZ,
Am J Psychiatry 2008;165:140-141. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07101543
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by Myrna Weissman, John Markowitz, and Gerald L. Klerman. New York, Oxford University Press, 2007, 208 pp., $35.00.

Myrna Weissman, John Markowitz, and the late Gerald Klerman are the leading authorities on interpersonal psychotherapy, which Drs. Klerman and Weissman developed with colleagues Bruce Rounsaville and Eve Chevron in the 1970s. The Clinician’s Quick Guide to Interpersonal Psychotherapy is the newest addition to their series of books describing this empirically supported treatment for depression. Designed for the practicing clinician, the first half of the book provides a succinct overview of interpersonal psychotherapy techniques and strategies. The second half of the book describes adaptations of interpersonal psychotherapy for disorders other than major depression.

The authors tout the guide’s brevity, noting in the preface that it was written for individuals who lack sufficient time to read a more detailed manual. Its concision is both its strength and its weakness. Although the guide enables readers to jump right into the treatment itself, it does so at the expense of all background information that would have given readers an understanding of the origins of the treatment and the interpersonal theory of depression. Being thrown immediately into the “nuts and bolts” of interpersonal psychotherapy may be a distinct advantage for those who are already familiar with the context of the treatment, but potentially confusing for the interpersonal psychotherapy novice.

For busy clinicians, however, the guide allows them to proceed directly to the essentials of treatment. For those who learn by doing, this is a great virtue. The summaries of interpersonal psychotherapy strategies and techniques are well written and supplemented by excellent clinical vignettes that clearly illustrate the instructive material. Each chapter includes a series of “handouts” that can be used by clinicians to elicit relevant clinical information from patients—reference sheets that no doubt will serve as useful tools for clinicians embarking on new cases. The chapter entitled “Common Therapeutic Issues and Patient Questions” is especially helpful; arranged as a series of frequently asked questions, it covers many of the problems typically encountered by the interpersonal psychotherapist. Nonetheless, much like a sophisticated cookbook that assumes the reader understands the chemical principles behind the recipes, users of the guide who are not well versed in the theory that forms the basis of interpersonal psychotherapy may find themselves somewhat lost when the treatment does not proceed exactly as laid out in the text.

The clinical focus of the guide is preserved in the second half of the book through continuous and liberal use of patient-centered vignettes; however, the authors move from discussing basic techniques to an exploration of how the treatment has been applied to various patient populations and in diverse clinical settings. Although not exhaustive, the authors touch on most of the published adaptations of interpersonal psychotherapy, appropriately devoting the greatest amount of space to those applications with the highest levels of empirical support. Indeed, one of the best features of the second portion of the book is that the authors assign each interpersonal psychotherapy adaptation a rating according to the level of empirical evidence supporting its efficacy. These clearly articulated standards allow the readers to see for themselves the level of support established for each adaptation described.

The Clinician’s Quick Guide to Interpersonal Psychotherapy embodies the ethos of interpersonal psychotherapy; the authors take a strong clinical stance, make the material feel clinically relevant, and yet ground all of their assertions in empirical evidence. Although it is not an optimal introduction to interpersonal psychotherapy for those who are completely unfamiliar with the terrain, it would be a wonderful companion to a didactic course or a useful overview for those who want to consolidate their understanding of the treatment. This book represents a useful and welcome addition to the interpersonal psychotherapy library, especially for those clinicians who already have had some exposure to the treatment.

+Book review accepted for publication October 2007 (doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07101543).

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