Using Behavioural Activation To Treat Depression

A diagram demonstrating how behavioural activation helps depressionDepression is a mental health problem that inhibits people from feeling worthy, valued, or being able to enjoy life. It can be caused by a magnitude of factors, both genetically and environmentally, and can really impact the quality of life for someone who is diagnosed with this mental illness. Though depression is hard to overcome, there are incredibly effective psychology and counselling methods, such as Behavioural Activation techniques, that can genuinely make a difference in someone’s life and help them recover.

Behavioural Activation and How It Is Used to Treat Depression

Behavioural Activation is a powerful, highly-personalised intervention component of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) that helps people engage more in enjoyable activities and improve problem-solving skills. In more scientific terms, it is a well-structured psychotherapeutic approach that highlights pleasure/mastery, decreases depressive triggering activities, and increases aversive controls.

For someone with depression following this method, they are learning how to cope with their negativity by increasing positive awareness through cognitive restructuring and redeveloping their personal goals to live a happier life.

Steps in Behavioural Activation

There are several steps that go into Behavioral Activation. Though every person is different, the process is still the same, and it starts with activity monitoring.

  1. Activity Monitoring

Counsellors and psychologists will ask their depressed patient to start out monitoring their mood, emotions, and behaviors for a certain amount of time. Doing so will give both of them a clear view of what the problems are that are feeding the depression, and formulate a plan to break that cycle that dictates a melancholic mood.

  1. Values, Pleasure, Mastery, and Goals

Once you and your counsellor or psychologist have pinpointed exactly what is going on, the next steps is to focus on improving your mood. This dives deeper than just quick fixes, such as meditation. It goes to personal core values, pleasure, and mastery that make your life worth living.

  • Values: what you find meaningful in life.
  • Pleasure: Such as activities that you enjoy for the sake of the game/hobby itself.
  • Mastery: Career aspirations, sports, or anything involving the development of skills

After you have explored that, then you will be able to cultivate executable goals (both short and long-term).

  1. Translate Values into Activities

Once you have your goals laid out, you will then need to convert those values/goals into actual activities. As you go through each day doing your new activities, you will monitor your progress and see how your thoughts and emotions are reacting. Be hyper-aware of the correlation of your actions and how you are feeling before, during, and after completing them. Remember, this is not a set-in-stone type of method; you can always alter and add new activities to your list as you go if you feel like they will help you better.

Behavioural Activation Tips

Even with the help of your counsellor or psychologist, Behavioural Activation is still going to be challenging for the majority of people with depression. After all, it is extremely hard to break away from strong habits, even if they are not very good ones. Because of that reality, here are some extra tips that can keep you going.

  • Make sure you keep a healthy balance of both pleasant and achievement-based activities. For example, though hanging out with friends is a pleasant time doing too much of this can take away from your responsibilities (achievements) such as cleaning the house. Alternatively, you do not want to do all work and no play. Balance is critical here, and nailing that down is vital to your success.
  • Stick with your goals, even if depression is limiting your motivation. Depression is very sly when it comes to discouraging you from trying to change your life. You have to persevere through those dark times and stick with your plan regardless. In general, your behaviour needs to alter before your emotions or motivation improves.
  • If you really believe that the activity you listed on a particular day is too challenging, instead of giving up on it completely, try doing something less stressful so you can still make progress. Slow progress or getting started is better than nothing at all.
  • Because recovery is a rocky road, never forget to reward yourself when you complete a scheduled activity. Natural rewards work great here and can help motivate you to keep moving forward to reinforce positive change.


Behavioural Activation may be a simple structure, but the effects and advantages it has are immensely valuable when it comes to depression treatment. It can be taught quickly, cheaply, and can provide a significantly greater fidelity than other complex treatments. Since one of the clear signs of depression is poor concentration, easier treatment options are more favourable than complicated techniques.

However, since everyone is different and depression can come in a range of severity, it is important that you discuss your ideal treatment plans with your counsellor or psychologist to make sure that the path you are on to recovery is the best fit for you.

Quest Psychology Services are specialists in providing psychology and counselling for people with depression within Salford, Manchester. To discuss getting help yourself call us on 07932737335

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *