How Does Behavioral Activation Help Manage Depression?

If you are having cognitive behavioral therapy for your depression, then your therapist might recommend that you try behavioral activation. How does this approach work? What are its benefits?

What Is Behavioral Activation?

When you start a behavioral activation treatment, you and your therapist evaluate how your past and current behavior affects your mood. So, for example, you will make a list of things that you enjoy doing and that make you happy. You'll note down things you don't like to do that make you more depressed.

You'll also look at changes your depression might have made to your behavior. For example, you might not do things that make you happy at the moment because you are too depressed to do them.

After this assessment, your therapist will encourage you to introduce different behaviors to your regular routines, say in weekly periods. So, if you used to get a real mood boost from going out to dinner with a certain group of friends, then they will encourage you to put this into one of your weekly diary plans.

Your therapist may also ask you to do some things you aren't so happy about. They might start by having you schedule a necessary task that you don't like to do once a week. They will work with you to make these tasks more tolerable by helping you understand why you don't want to do them.

How Does Behavioral Activation Affect Your Depression?

Your depression makes it hard for you to do anything, even things you used to enjoy. However, if you shut yourself away and do nothing, then you miss opportunities to lift your depression. It will only get worse.

During a behavioral activation treatment, your therapist will gently encourage you to slowly reintegrate into your life. You will take small steps to do things that you know will lift your mood.

If you do something that makes you happy, even if it is simply watching a favorite TV show or listening to music, then your mood is boosted. You'll gradually learn how to use life activities as coping mechanisms to control your depression.

Behavioral activation also boosts your confidence. Depression can make you feel inert and incapable. If you start to do more things, then you will feel better about yourself, especially when your therapist asks you to do an activity you don't like but need to do. Once you start to feel more confident, your depression should reduce.

To find out more about how behavioral activation can help manage your depression, talk to your therapist.