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Behavioural activation treatment for Depression

Updated: Sep 2

Behavioural activation (BA) is an evidence-based protocol used to treat low mood and improve overall wellbeing. The focus of this approach is to increase activities in your life that are meaningful to you and in line with your values.


Together with myself, you will create value-driven goals, then with activity monitoring we will see how to decrease behaviours that deactivate you. Then using activity preplanning, we will prioritise activities that will help you achieve your goals. We will break this down into easily achievable steps.


So in summary, BA is a treatment where a person uses their behaviours to alter their emotional state. It is frequently used in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).


How does behavioural activation work to treat depression?

Behavioural activation relies on changing and adapting a person’s behaviours. Therefore, this treatment relies on a behaviouralist concept. This is an area of psychology concerned with how a person's values influence their actions and, as a result, their mental health.


The concept underlying BA is that individuals will activate a pleasant emotional state by purposefully engaging in specific actions. Engaging in rewarding or healthy activities, for example, will improve mood, making them more likely to continue participating in those activities.


It is of utmost importance, however, that these activities are meaningful to you. If connectedness to others is important in your life, making time to be with others would need to be prioritised.


The idea behind BA is that as we go into a negative cycle, we gradually retreat from rewarding activities. Depressed individuals typically become deactivated, spending more time in isolation, less time engaged with others and avoiding healthy routines. Less productivity is normally observed as the individual reports feeling less energy, fatigue and negative thinking of themselves.


The goal of BA is to gradually reintroduce rewarding activities into people's daily lives. These activities can be enjoyable, such as going on a walk or making plans to meet up with a friend for dinner or can be more chore orientated, such as painting the bedroom or working at a charity.


After a time of engaging in reinforcing activities consistently, mood progressively improves, resulting in fewer self-defeating thoughts, and the upward mood cycle gains pace.


Activity monitoring and activity scheduling/preplanning are the most common methods for BA.


Keeping a careful record of your behaviour throughout the week, as well as documenting your emotions of joy/fun/pleasure and mastery/achievement linked with each activity, will help you figure out what's lacking from your routine. This also helps as a visual aid to help you see if there is enough balance in your week, are your values being worked towards?


Following a few days to a week of tracking, the following weeks are spent progressively incorporating new rewarding behaviours into your day by scheduling them. People can break free from their melancholy cycles by replacing them with happiness cycles in this way.


BA is a straightforward psychological intervention but can be tough to implement. This is where the role of a professional Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist is very helpful to have to help motivate and keep you on track.


In our assessment we will become aware of any possible traps that may derail any progress in using a behavioural modification method such as BA.


BA treatment for depression has very good results, individuals can report a relief in depressive symptoms within 2-4 sessions. The majority of individuals note a significant symptom reduction or remission after 12 sessions.


Online and at-home treatment

BA treatment can be carried out together online via Skype/Zoom where homework will be set to monitor activity and then together, we discover values and create goals to help us pre-plan the following weeks.


We will review and problem solve challenges that arise each week. If you wish to receive BA in person, I can be alongside you to help you identify your values, create goals and be with you to help you actually engage with the activities that matter most to you and also improve motivation


If you wish to receive effective treatment for low mood, please use the contact form to schedule an assessment


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