Behavioral Activation (BA): Anxiety Treatment Review

What is Behavioral Activation?

Behavioral Activation or BA is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) (see A-Z list) this is primarily used for for treating depression and depressive illnesses, discount cialisdiscount cialis maladymalady however it is useful with many anxiety and fear based issues.

Behavioral Activation is considered to be a third generation form of CBT in that it has emerged from a series of analytical studies (component analysis) of the effectiveness of the various forms of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. There are currently over 35 types of CBT. This research1 showed that when dealing with clinical depression, as opposed to anxiety and fear disorders or issues, the cognitive elenments of the treatment tended to have minimal impact and therefore Behavioral Activation focuesses on the behavioural elements of therapy.

How does Behavioral Activation work?

The principle behind Behavioral Activation is to use rewards and punishments to guide an individuals behaviour into more normailised patterns.

The stages of the therapy include:

  1. The individuals creates with their threrapist, a list of things that are reinforcing the current behaviour patterns and a list of activities that reinforce normalised behaviour.
  2. The individual then creates a set of behavioural goals which the therapist then tracks
  3. They then create a plan or hirearchy of action to incrementally modify the individuals behaviour through a set of reinforcements and in some cases punishments.
  4. They would then use an objective measure (The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)) to measure the effect.



Behavioral Activation is considered to be very effective in the treatment of depression and depressive illnesses. A large-scale treatment study found Behavioral Activation to be more effective than cognitive therapy and gives similar results to treatment with medication with acute clinical depression2.

There is some evidence that Behavioral Activation can be used successfully to treat of anxiety and fear related issues3 and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)4.



1. Jacobson, N.S., Dobson, K.S., Truax, P.A., Addis, M.E., Koerner, K., Gollan, J.K., Gortner, E., & Prince, S.E. (1996). A component analysis of cognitive-behavioral treatment for depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 64 (2): 295-304.

2. Dimidjian, S., et al. (2006). Randomized Trial of Behavioral Activation, Cognitive Therapy, and Antidepressant Medication in the Acute Treatment of Adults With Major Depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 74 (4): 658-670

3. Hopko, D.R., Robertson, S.M.C. & Lejuez, C.W. (2006). Behavioral Activation for Anxiety Disorders. The Behavior Analyst Today, 7 (2), 212-224

4. Mulick, P.S., Landes, S.J. and Kanter, J.W. (2005). Contextual Behavior Therapies in the Treatment of PTSD: A Review – IJBCT, 1 (3), 223–229


Go to A-Z list of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)



Go to More Fear Course Articles

Learn to take control better with the Fear Course.

Do the Online Fear Course or attend The Fear Course Live.

You can learn to take control of your emotions at will, when and where you want from the experts.

Credit where credit is due. Play fair and acknowledge the authors' work and expertise.

These articles are protected by worldwide Copyright © David Wilkinson / Centre i Ltd. 2008 - 2013: you may link to these articles but copying or re-posting / embedding without acknowledgement is a breach of copyright.