Behavioral activation as therapy for depression

Jacobson (1996) called Behavioral Activation (AC) the programming of activities, applied in conjunction with cognitive intervention techniques, to improve a certain deficit or excess of behavior in the person.

This is therapy to treat depression and that he understands the behaviors of the sufferer not only as a symptom, but as part of the essence and continuation of the disorder.

    What is behavioral activation?

    Among the symptoms of depression, one of the most characteristic is inaction, Which is part of a vicious cycle in which the sufferer is plunged: the lack of activity affects the mood and, similarly, the depressed mood produces a lack of activity. This relationship is the epicenter of the proposed behavioral activation, which views certain types of depression as elaborate forms of avoidance.

    The goal of this therapy, framed in the third generation therapies of the cognitive-behavioral current, and which is in itself a therapy in itself, is that depressed patients can organize their lives and change their environment to reestablish their relationship with sources of stimuli that are positive reinforcement for them.

    Some of the interventions with behavioral activation methods, aimed at reducing depressive symptoms are: prioritizing tasks, programming vital goals, reinforcing social contact behaviors and performing rewarding activities.

      How it works?

      Therapy is mainly based on prescribe activities to break the dynamic of inactivity. To be effective, especially at the beginning, the program must include easy and rewarding activities (not only enjoyable, because we are looking for satisfying and demanding activities) progressive and very well planned, especially at the beginning of the program, it is easy for difficulties arise for its realization.

      Current meta-analytical analyzes (Cuijpers, van Straten and Warmer-dam, 2007) and experimental work comparing different therapeutic approaches – antidepressant drugs, cognitive therapy and behavioral activation therapy – (Dimidjian et al., 2006) have revealed that purely behavioral interventions are sufficient for an effective and efficient approach to depressive images.

      his advantages

      Some of the benefits of behavioral activation programs are as follows.

      It has shown a lot of scientific evidence

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

      It is an easy to apply treatment

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

      It does not require modification of thoughts, the procedure is more complex

      The data suggests that the application of behavioral components by themselves they get the same result as the application of a complete cognitive therapy.


      In short, behavioral activation is therapy with strong empirical support, which offers a new treatment opportunity for people with depression.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cuijpers, P., van Straten A. and Warmerdam, L. (2007) Psychological treatment versus combination treatment of depression: a meta-analysis. Drepress Anx: in press.
      • Dimidjian, S., Hollon, SD, Dobson, KS, Schmaling, KB, Kohlenberg, RJ, Addis, ME and Jacobson, NS (2006). Randomized trial of behavioral activation, cognitive therapy, and antidepressant drugs in the acute treatment of adults with major depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74 (4), 658-670.

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