What is Behavioral Activation?
Behavioral activation (BA) was initially a component of cognitive behavioral therapy that has more recently proven to be an effective stand-alone treatment for depression. BA aims to to specifically increase behaviors that will increase desired or rewarding experiences.
The aim of a behavioral activation therapist is to partner with the individual as a coach in examining and modifying behavioral patterns that may be getting in the way of experiencing rewarding experiences. Typically, most behavior of people experiencing depression is governed by negative reinforcement. This means that people take certain actions with the intention of preventing or avoiding something undesired from happening. Ultimately, behavioral activation is focused on creating more opportunities for positively reinforced behavior (the presence of something desired), which is the only way we an experience positive emotional states.
Core Principles of Behavioral Activation
- In order to change how we feel it is often most effective to change what we do and how we do it.
- All behavior is functional. This means that even our “bad habits” serve some purpose and make sense on some level.
- Pay attention to the context of behavior. Generally speaking, this means taking into consideration what happens before, during, and after the behavior.
- Structure activities based on a plan, not a mood.
- Change will be easier when starting small.
- When possible, utilize natural reinforcers
- Utilize problem-solving and learning from past efforts
- Don’t get caught up in talking about taking action, but instead focus on taking action.