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Behavioral Activation as a therapy against depression

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Jacobson (1996) called Behavioral Activation (BA) to the programming of activities, applied together with cognitive intervention techniques, which allow to improve some behavioral deficit or excess in the person.

Is about a therapy directed at the treatment of depression and who understands the behaviors of the person who suffers from it not only as a symptom, but as part of the essence and maintenance of the disorder.

  • Related article: "Depression and anxiety: symptoms to be able to recognize them easily"

What is Behavioral Activation?

Among the symptoms of depression, one of the most characteristic is inaction, which is part of a vicious circle in which the person who suffers from it is immersed: the lack of Activity affects mood, and in the same way, depressed mood produces a lack of activity. This relationship is the epicenter of the Behavioral Activation proposal, which contemplates some types of depression as elaborate forms of avoidance.

The objective of this therapy, framed within the third generation therapies of the cognitive-behavioral current, and that is in itself a therapy in itself, it is that depressed patients can organize their lives and change their environment for

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reestablish their relationship with sources of stimuli that provide positive reinforcement for them.

Some of the interventions with behavioral activation methods, aimed at reducing depressive symptoms are: the prioritization of tasks, the programming of vital objectives, the reinforcement of behaviors of social contact and the performance of activities rewarding.

  • You may be interested in: "Behavioral Activation: one of the most effective therapies against depression"

How does it work?

The therapy is based primarily on prescribe activities to break the dynamic of inactivity. To be effective, especially at first, the schedule needs to include easy, rewarding activities (not just enjoyable, as we look for activities that satisfactory and require effort) gradual and very well planned, because, especially at the beginning of the program, it is easy for difficulties to arise for its realization.

The current meta-analytic reviews (Cuijpers, van Straten & Warmer-dam, 2007) and the experimental works in which different therapeutic approaches—antidepressant medication, cognitive therapy, and behavioral activation therapy—(Dimidjian et al., 2006) have revealed that purely behavioral interventions are sufficient for an efficient and effective approach to depressive symptoms.

Its advantages

Some of the advantages of Behavioral Activation programs are the following.

It has demonstrated extensive scientific evidence

Compared to pharmacological therapy, it has obtained comparable results and a higher percentage of remission in the subjects, as well as adherence to treatment.

It is a simple treatment to apply.

Compared to other proposals, it does not require so many steps.

Does not require modification of thoughts, whose procedure is more complex

The data suggest that the application of the behavioral components by themselves obtain the same result as the application of complete cognitive therapy.


In short, Behavioral Activation is a therapy with strong empirical support, which provides a new treatment opportunity for people suffering from depression.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cuijpers, P., van Straten A. and Warmerdam, L. (2007) Psychological treatment versus combined treatment of depression: A metaanalysis. Drepress Anx: in press.
  • Dimidjian, S., Hollon, S. D., Dobson, K. S., Schmaling, K. B., Kohlenberg, R. J., Addis, M. E., and Jacobson, N. S. (2006). Randomized trial of behavioral activation, cognitive therapy, and antidepressant medication in the acute treatment of adults with major depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(4), 658–670.

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