Behavioral Activation: Increasing Enjoyable and Mastery Activities to Decrease Distress

Jeanne Gabriele, G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center, USA

Theme: Anxiety, stress, and emotions

Program ID: WKSP-35

Presentation: October 5, 2013 2:45 pm - 3:45 pm

Room: Magnolia


Behavioral activation is an empirically-supported treatment for depression (e.g., Jacobson et al., 1996, Dimidjian et al., 2006). According to the behavioral model of depression, low positive reinforcement and high punishment results in increased depressive symptoms. As depressive symptoms increase, individuals disengage from enjoyable and mastery activities which results in a further increase in depressive symptoms. According to behavioral activation theorists, the key to stopping this cycle is to change what an individual does which will in turn change how the individual feels (Martell et al., 2010). Within the Department of Veterans Affairs, behavioral activation is being used to 1) increase physical activity in depressed individuals and 2) prevent and treat depression and anxiety in Veterans adapting to injury, return from deployment, and transition from military to civilian life. These techniques are of utility to sport and exercise psychologists working with sedentary individuals who wish to increase physical activity or athletes experiencing distress as a result of burnout, end-of-career transition, or injury. The current workshop will introduce components of a brief behavioral activation intervention. After attending this workshop, attendees will be able to 1) describe the behavioral activation model for depression, 2) implement key behavioral activation techniques, and 3) recognize ways in which behavioral activation can be of utility to sport and exercise psychologists. Behavioral activation techniques covered will include creating value-based activity hierarchies, monitoring activity for pleasure and mastery, scheduling activity, developing graded tasks assignments, and countering avoidance. Didactic instruction, modeling, and videos will be used to introduce key components of a brief behavioral activation intervention and illustrate these techniques. Audience members will receive a syllabus for a 8-week behavioral activation protocol being used with Veterans as well as example handouts and provider tip sheets for each technique discussed.

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