The origins and current status of behavioral activation treatments for depression

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2011;7:1-38. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104535.


The past decade has witnessed a resurgence of interest in behavioral interventions for depression. This contemporary work is grounded in the work of Lewinsohn and colleagues, which laid a foundation for future clinical practice and science. This review thus summarizes the origins of a behavioral model of depression and the behavioral activation (BA) approach to the treatment and prevention of depression. We highlight the formative initial work by Lewinsohn and colleagues, the evolution of this work, and related contemporary research initiatives, such as that led by Jacobson and colleagues. We examine the diverse ways in which BA has been investigated over time and its emerging application to a broad range of populations and problems. We close with reflections on important directions for future inquiry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy* / methods
  • Behavioral Research
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological