Behavioural activation for the treatment of low-income, African American adolescents with major depressive disorder: a case series


Maryann Jacob, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine,1256 Briarcliff Rd., Suite 309E Atlanta, GA 30306, USA.



Behavioural activation (BA) is a psychosocial treatment that has shown promise in the treatment of adults suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD). Recent studies have shown that BA may also be effective for treating depressed adolescents. There are no studies that have reported on the BA treatment of depressed and low-income African American adolescents; thus, the current study reports on the effectiveness of a version of BA adapted for the treatment of African American adolescents who were diagnosed with MDD (n = 3). Participants were allowed to attend a maximum of 17 sessions of weekly psychotherapy. Based on results taken from structured interviews, two of the three participants no longer met criteria for MDD at the end of treatment, and the severity of clinician-rated depressive symptoms and impairment decreased for all participants at post-treatment assessment. Additionally, all participants and their caregivers reported satisfaction with treatment. Implications of these findings, study limitations and suggestions for future directions are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key Practitioner Message

  • Behavioural activation is an emerging evidence-based psychotherapeutic treatment for adolescent depression.
  • African American adolescents in particular can benefit behavioural activation.
  • Behavioural activation is an intervention that can be utilized in settings with limited resources.