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Behavioural activation for the treatment of depression in military personnel
  1. Dean Whybrow
  1. Correspondence to CPONN Dean Whybrow, Royal Navy Mental Health Rehabilitation Service, Sunny Walk, HMNB Portsmouth, Hampshire PO1 3LT, UK; deanwhybrow{at}


Introduction Depression is a common mental health problem in both civilian and military populations. Access to evidence based psychological therapies for treating common mental health problems such as depression may not be adequate at present. Behavioural Activation (BA) represents a National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommended, evidence-based treatment for depression. The aim of this review was to review the literature to determine how BA could work as a therapeutic approach for military personnel with depression.

Method Five specialty-specific electronic databases were searched using the key words ‘behavioural activation’, ‘activity scheduling’ and ‘depression’. Emerging themes were drawn out of the literature using a long table approach to thematic analysis.

Results Seven themes were identified: Clinical Effectiveness, Cultural Competence, Co-morbidity, Cost Effectiveness, Alternatives to Face-to-Face Therapy, Training and Patient Experience.

Conclusions Group based BA is a cost effective option that may build upon service personnel's cultural affinity to teamwork and peer support. Brief training workshops and supervision could be provided to military mental health nurses to deliver group based BA. However service delivery may also be enhanced by enabling some nurses to specialise as Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapists. More research is needed to understand whether this pragmatic, two pronged approach to training would result in the sustained dissemination of evidence based practice.

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