Behavioral activation is a treatment for depression that has been found to be very effective, even for individuals who have not had success with other approaches. Behavioral activation primarily focuses on a client’s behavior and environment, and is guided by the behavioral activation model. The behavioral activation model suggests that life events such as grief, trauma, daily stressors, or a genetic predisposition to depression can lead to a person having too little positive reinforcement (or, reward). An individual may then cope with unpleasant emotions with avoidant strategies such as oversleeping and withdrawal from previously meaningful activities and relationships. These behaviors provide relief in the short-term but ultimately leave an individual feeling increasingly isolated and depressed.
A clinician using behavioral activation techniques aims to increase the amount of positive reinforcement an individual experiences from engaging in daily activities by replacing avoidant behavior patterns with more rewarding and effective ones.