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What is Behavioural Activation (BA)?

A specific treatment targeting behaviour change in depression is called Behavioural Activation (BA). There’s lots of research that shows changing behaviour can improve mood in adults, and there is some evidence to say this works with teenagers too.

In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), we use the following diagram to make sense of people’s experiences, and guide intervention. It’s assumed that thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all related, and changes in one area have knock on effects on the others.

Often, it’s easiest to start with behaviour as that’s the part that’s observable by others, and can be simplest to change. Sometimes young people don’t always recognise the changes in their behaviour until it is pointed out by others, which means parents, professionals and other people in contact with them can be well placed to help.

Behavioural Activation (BA)

A specific treatment targeting behaviour change in depression is called Behavioural Activation (BA). There’s lots of research that shows changing behaviour can improve mood in adults, and there is some evidence to say this works with teenagers too.

In this video, Dr Laura Pass provides an introduction to Brief BA for adolescent depression, and you can read about the pilot work (1) found at the bottom of the Step.

What is the Aim of Behavioural Activation (BA)?

A key aim in BA is to increase positive reinforcement in a person’s life. Positive reinforcement is a consequence that happens after a behaviour that is rewarding, and makes it more likely you’ll repeat the behaviour again. A good example is getting a salary for a paid job – most people wouldn’t continue going to work every day if they weren’t getting paid for it.

Can you think of another example?

References

1) Pass, L., Lejuez, C. W., & Reynolds, S. (2017). Brief Behavioural Activation (Brief BA) for Adolescent Depression: A Pilot Study. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 1-13

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Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

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