Behavioural activation in young people with low mood

Prof Bernadka Dubicka, Dr Leo Kroll and Dr Susanne Ellen Marwedel

60 minutes


November 2022

CPD learning module

CPD domain:


COVID-19 has created dramatic population behavioural change. In the NHS, remote working was organised in days, a behavioural change that seemed highly unlikely at the beginning of 2020.

With lockdown, families had to adjust to a new context, and were presenting with behaviours that were both adaptive and maladaptive. With this in mind, we present an overview of the key elements of behavioural activation (BA) for young people with depressed mood. We believe that using BA explicitly will be useful for those families and young people who show maladaptive behaviours, such as:


  • excessive anxious avoidant behaviours,
  • behavioural change due to depressed mood,
  • frustration about thwarted goals and aspirations.

    We consider BA to be an important tool to help families notice and understand their adaptive and maladaptive behaviours, not only within the context of COVID-19, but also more generally. BA can create choices and opportunities to develop more adaptive coping behaviours.

    We will cover the evidence base and the key parts of BA for depression. BA can structure and ground conversations between professionals and families, by helping young people and family members adjust goals and activities in order to negotiate the COVID-19 experience. Many young people may struggle to manage their time during this difficult period, and BA can provide the tools to help them with their activities and routines and provide a structure for the day.

    Activities are suggested for yourself as well, particularly about values and goal readjustment during COVID-19 and beyond.


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