ABA in the Treatment of Depression

Applied Behavioral Analysis for the treatment of depression has been a proven method of helping those who suffer from the illness. Whether it’s a child, young adult or older person, applied behavioral analysis therapy can be successful in treating depression without the need for medication or other therapy in certain individuals and situations. Those who suffer from depression are involved in activities that actually reinforce more detrimental behaviors.

Behavioral Issues Related to Depression Have Behavioral Solutions

Clinical depression is often treated with therapy and medications. The applied behavioral analysis was part of the process, but the emphasis was on the talk therapy and finding out the reason for the depression.

Currently, applied behavioral analysis, or ABA, stands alone as a treatment for depression and has grown into a valued way to treat depression outside of therapy and medication.

Depression has a wide variety of symptoms that can differ among patients. From anxiety, sadness and irritability to feelings of guilt, helplessness and pessimism, there are quite a few personality changes and emotions. There are also some real physical symptoms like an increase in fatigue, decrease in energy and a loss of appetite.

Treating depression and its symptoms with a range of techniques will bring about the most successful outcomes. Behavior adapted through behavioral activation, or BA, have helped people overcome depression and its range of symptoms because they help target the patient’s symptoms with directed activity.

It can often mean helping depressed patients reengage with their lives instead of avoiding situations that could break the pattern of depression.

Symptoms and Behavioral Activation for Depression

When a patient is depressed with any of the above symptoms, he or she will avoid participating in activities. People with depression will avoid and withdraw, which can increase their sense of depression instead of alleviating it.

While avoiding some outside behaviors like social outings can cause some immediate calming or pleasure, continuing to stay indoors or in bed can actually lead to more feelings of depression. It might bring about feelings of helplessness and sadness because the person feels worthless because they’re hiding.

A person who is depressed will avoid going outside or activities that they love, which leads to less enjoyment and pleasure in their lives. ABA is a proven way to evaluate the person’s life and find what gives them pleasure. The patient can be placed on an activity schedule that guides them back into the world in a way that is mindful and monitored.

The patient will be given a schedule and taught how to monitor their activity as well as questions to ask themselves during the course of the day or throughout the week. While the analyst will be evaluating the patient, he or she will also be teaching the patient the right techniques and questions to ask themselves to help avoid behaviors and situations that exacerbate the depression and its symptoms.

Behavioral activation is a method of providing positive reinforcement for behaviors that feel good. For example, a depressed individual typically stays home when they’re depressed or anxious. This avoidance of social situations brings about self-critical statements and feelings of worthlessness. If patients attend a gathering or social event, they are able to assess their feelings and glow over the positive moments, which can go a long way towards lifting depression over time.

Preparing for a Career Working with Depression as an Applied Behavior Analyst

The analyst has to become certified in Applied Behavioral Analysis, which is done after advanced education. The certification is achieved through testing with the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board or BACB. There are a variety of levels to the process. There’s a bachelor’s level, which is a Board Certified Assistant Behavioral Analyst. There is also a Master’s and Doctoral level to being an analyst.

The level that the student takes for certification will depend on their degree goals and current education. For some, there’s the option of a registered behavior technician for those who want to work under a professional while obtaining their advanced degree.

Employers require a certificate from BACB for all the practitioners they take into their practice. Whether it’s a clinic, therapist’s office or school environment, the practitioner must have certification as a standard since it’s required by insurance carriers before reimbursement happens for services rendered.

Further Reading on Applied Behavior Analysis in the Treatment of Depression

There are books that an analyst student will read when attending college, but there are others that make great reading on the side. As an analyst student, there comes a time when the person will want to apply certain concepts and methods to their own lives and behavior. That can be done by reading how to analyze their own behaviors on a deeper level and modify their behavior. A great book to read might include Applied Behavioral Analysis: Principles and Procedures in Behavior Modification.

The American Psychiatric Association has plenty of articles for further reading like the one published May 20, 2017 called New Research: Cognitive Behavior Therapy Delivered Online Effective for Treating Depression.

There are also journal entries with the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health that cover more topics around ABA like the one published back in 1972. These were some of the first conversations about how to treat anxiety and depression with positive reinforcement. There are other journals to be read in the same space as well as a trial published in 2006 that tested whether medications can work better than behavioral activation for treating depression.

When it comes to applied behavioral analysis for treating depression, there is evidence that it can be incredibly effective. In some cases, it can be even more effective than medication for treating depression as well as its symptoms. Often, symptoms of depression are heightened based on the reaction the person has to the symptoms. A person who stays in bed will chastise themselves about the behavior, which reinforces feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Positive reinforcement can stop the cycle of depression when practiced with a certified and educated behavioral analyst.

Another worthy resource:

Top 20 ABA Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs

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