Behavioral Activation for Depression
Getting better — making it happen together!
What is Behavioral Activation?
Behavioral activation is a short-term therapeutic treatment that can have a tremendous positive effect on your mood. Treatment using behavioral activation can last from 8-24 sessions. It has been tested in individual therapy and group therapy, and in various ethnic groups.
When you feel depressed or anxious, you may be less likely to do the things you enjoy or avoid other potentially pleasurable activities. The consequences of this are often a worsening of mood, feeling more detached from others, and an increase in anxiety. In addition, as you feel more and more isolated, you may begin to feel depressed. This can turn into a vicious cycle, because as a person becomes more depressed, they feel less motivated to do the things they enjoy, leading to even more depression.
Studies show that behavioral action can be an effective stand-alone treatment for depression or part of that treatment. It is also effective for depressive symptoms that are part of other conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
How Behavioral Activation Works
Behavioral activation is designed to increase your contact with positively rewarding activities. In behavioral activation, you identify specific goals for the week and work toward meeting those goals.
These goals take the form of pleasurable activities that are consistent with the life you want to live. For example, if you want to live the life of a compassionate person, you might choose goals focused on volunteer work, activism, helping a friend, or donating to an important cause. When you notice yourself feeling anxious or depressed, that is a particularly good time to work on an activity. This teaches you that your behavior can affect your mood. Social activities are particularly helpful, as is exercise and even spiritual practices.
Although behavioral activation may seem like a pretty approach it can be difficult to do, especially when you're not feeling motivated. When people feel depressed, it can be hard to do anything, even things you enjoy. This is why working with a therapists is so important. The therapist will help you develop a plan for activities, including a schedule, and will even call to help you stay on track between sessions, if needed.