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IPT is based on interpersonal theory stemming from the post-Second World War work of Adolph Meyer, Harry Stack Sullivan, (17) and later John Bowlby and others. The general principle derived from these theories is that life events occurring after the formative years influence psychopathology. IPT uses this principle in a non-aetiological fashion: it does not pretend to discern the cause of a depressive episode, but uses the connection between current life events and mood disorder to help the patient understand and deal with his or her episode of illness. IPT is further based on psychosocial and life events' research of depression that has bolstered these theories by demonstrating the relationships between depression and loss (complicated bereavement), role disputes (e.g. bad marriages), role transitions, and interpersonal deficits.

Finally, IPT has an unusually strong empirical basis in the controlled studies that have systematically tested its efficacy for major depression, other mood disorders, and increasingly for non-mood disorders.

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