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J Affect Disord. 2013 Mar 5;145(3):292-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.07.023. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

Behavioural activation for depression: efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination.

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École de Psychologie, 2325, rue des Bibliothèques, Université Laval, Quebec, QC, Canada G1V 0A6.



Depression being a prevalent psychobiological disorder across the world, there is a need to identify effective, evidence-based treatments that are time and cost-effective in an effort to increase the population's accessibility to treatments. Low-intensity interventions, such as guided self-help treatments, hold promise for the dissemination of evidence-based treatments. Behavioural activation, a component of cognitive-behavioural therapy, is receiving increasing attention and empirical support as a stand-alone psychological treatment for depression. This article reviews behavioural activation's theoretical foundations and efficacy in light of determining its potential as a low-intensity intervention.


A systematic review of articles on low-intensity behavioural activation interventions for depression was conducted using the PsychInfo, Medline and Embase databases. Behavioural activation's potential for dissemination as a guided self-help treatment is discussed and future avenues of research are stressed.


Studies on the efficacy of behavioural activation as a guided self-help treatment are very limited to date and there are significant variations among existing studies.


Based on the research literature, it can be concluded that behavioural activation could be a viable option as a low-intensity guided self-help psychological treatment for mild to moderate depression. Further research is required to better understand the optimal parameters and client-therapist characteristics of this form of low-intensity intervention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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