My First 100 Days: Part 3 Behavioral Activation

Did you ever hear about something you were not all that familiar with and then run into the same thing again and again?  That is what happened with me and the theory of behavioral activation. First Lin told me I was practicing behavioral activation therapy on myself. Duh, I am? Then I saw the term in counseling files. The therapist I had ‘inherited’ some clients from was using it. Maybe I should figure out what the hey this stuff is.

It appears behavioral activation was ‘discovered’ back in the 70s about the same time CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, was getting its start. In the race for fame and fortune CBT won out. Of course this was not before it incorporated some behavioral activation concepts into itself. (And DBT then Incorporated some CBT into itself. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to psychological alphabet soup!)

Behavioral activation, BA, targets behaviors that are creating or maintaining depression. It then attempts to decrease these behaviors and increase pleasant activities in the depressed person’s life. BA contends that life events and biological predispositions lead to people having low levels of positive reinforcement and these low levels of positive reinforcement lead to depression. If positive reinforcement is increased, depression will decrease.

BA is said to target inertia. Remember Newton’s laws of motion? BA applies outside force by scheduling  pleasant events and activities that the client is supposed to participate in.

Never knew I was following BA. I thought I was accumulating positives and building mastery as well as using opposite to emotion a la DBT, but, as I said, there is nothing new under the sun. Just different names and packaging.

No matter what you call it, it does work. I had seen people sink into depression because of physical conditions and the limiting effects these conditions had caused.

I vowed I was not going down without a fight.

That said, I suspect I unwittingly found things that would depress me. Not working. Not going to activities. Not taking the beastie baby to the dog park. I then decided on ways  of replacing these depression-making situations with situations that would lead to positive reinforcement. Contacting BVS for assistive technology to get me back to work. Asking for rides to activities. Asking my husband to transport the dog and me to the dog park.

I would love to say there was method in my madness. Love to say I was practicing good, well thought out therapy on myself all the time but that would be a lie. The truth of the matter is I am a stubborn old bird and I had no intentions of giving up my life. I like my life (minus the AMD of course, but nothing is perfect. That is a dialectic. There is good and bad in everything)

I held on to the positives I could. Devised ways of doing what I loved. Found enjoyable substitutes for the things I could not hold on to and kept moving. When I was down? In DBT terms I practiced opposite to emotion. In BA terms I guess you could say I worked from the outside in to help me re-engage in life.

Whatever you call it, it worked.

Next: MY FIRST 100 DAYS: PART 4 NOW

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