Behaviour therapy (BT), also called behavioural activation, is a major component of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). However, it is different from CBT because it focuses exclusively on increasing people’s levels of activity and pleasure in their life. Unlike CBT, it does not focus on changing people’s beliefs and attitudes. BT can be carried out with individuals or groups, and generally lasts eight to 16 weeks.

How is Behaviour Therapy meant to work?

behaviour therapyBT tries to help people who are depressed by teaching them how to become more active. This often involves doing activities that are rewarding, either because they are pleasant (e.g. spending time with good friends or engaged in hobbies) or give a sense of satisfaction.

These are activities such as exercising, performing a diffcult work task or dealing with a long-standing problem that, while not fun, gives one a feeling of a ‘job well done’. This helps to reverse patterns of avoidance, withdrawal and inactivity that make depression worse, replacing them with rewarding experiences that reduce depression.

How Well Does Behaviour Therapy Work?

When it comes to treating specific behavioural issues, behaviour therapy can often be more effective than other approaches. Phobias, panic disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are examples of problems that respond well to behaviour therapy.

A number of well-designed studies have been carried out, and some reviews have pooled the findings. These studies showed that BT is effective for depression and that it works equally as well as CBT.


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