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Behavioral Activation

Behavioral activation is a technique used in CBT and other behavioral therapies, especially during the early stages of depression treatments. A person who's depressed may lack the motivation and energy to complete basic, healthy, life tasks. This can cause isolation and poor health, which enhances the depression, thus forming a dangerous cycle of lessening motivation and worsening depression.

During behavioral activation, your client will develop a very specific plan to engage in healthy activities. They should be simple, such as doing the dishes, going for a walk, or calling a friend. These tasks might seem mundane, but they can be taxing to a person who's battling depression. For this reason, the therapist should take extra care to develop a plan with their client. Decide when a task can be completed, and address any potential roadblocks ahead of time.

If you would like to learn more about how to use behavioral activation, check out our treatment guide on the topic.

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1. Dimidjian, S., Hollon, S. D., Dobson, K. S., Schmaling, K. B., Kohlenberg, R. J., Addis, M. E., ... & Atkins, D. C. (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.

2. Jacobson, N. S., Martell, C. R., & Dimidjian, S. (2001). Behavioral activation treatment for depression: Returning to contextual roots. Clinical Psychology: science and practice, 8(3), 255-270.

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