Behavioral activation and recreational therapy


  • Bryan P. McCormick, PhD, CTRS, FDRT, FALS
  • David R. Austin, PhD, FDRT, FALS



behavioral activation, depression, reward


Behavioral activation (BA) is an evidence-based brief and effective treatment for depression. This article explains BA, its procedures, and its relationship to recreational therapy (RT). According to BA theory, depression leads to lives reduced in ability to gain rewards from the environment. BA aims to activate clients to engage in activities that increase rewards, reduce negativity, and improve subjective well-being (SWB). This approach is consistent with RT practice, and expressly identified in Austin’s Health Protection/Health Promotion Model. BA has been shown to be effective in clinical depression programs across age groups, as well as in other diagnoses including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, and substance use disorder. The basic BA orientation of engaging in activity and resumption of a pleasing and meaningful experiences is highly consistent with RT practice, and BA should be a tool in the RT modalities toolbox.

Author Biographies

Bryan P. McCormick, PhD, CTRS, FDRT, FALS

Rehabilitation Sciences, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

David R. Austin, PhD, FDRT, FALS

Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana


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How to Cite

McCormick, PhD, CTRS, FDRT, FALS, B. P., & Austin, PhD, FDRT, FALS, D. R. (2018). Behavioral activation and recreational therapy. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 17(4), 11–18.




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