Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. C. Richard Spates

Second Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Third Advisor

Dr. Malcolm H. Robertson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Roberto Flachier


A recent empirical study (Jacobson et al., 1996) suggested that the Behavioral Activation (BA) component of Beck’s Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CT) for depression (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979) may be as effective a treatment for clinical depression as the full CT treatment. BA involves intervention choices that are fewer in number and more straightforward than those contained in CT, making BA a more efficient treatment than CT. The purpose of this study was to extend the research on BA by administering it as a group therapy and to evaluate this treatment in a natural setting. This was achieved by classifying 42 Community Mental Health (CMH) outpatients with Major Depressive Disorder as either Behavioral Activation Group Therapy (BAGT) subjects or wait-list subjects, dependent upon the latency from screening to treatment initiation. Eight B AGT-trained therapists administered the treatment weekly for 10 weeks at four Southwestern Michigan CMH agencies. A co-therapy model was utilized and group sizes ranged from 6 to 11 persons. Treatment subjects were assessed at pretreatment, posttreatment, and 3-month follow-up using the Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition (BDI-II) (Beck, Steer, Ball, & Ranieri, 1996), the Revised Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (RHRSD) (Warren, 1996), and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-FV (SCID) (First, Spitzer, Gibbon, & Williams, 1997). Wait-list subjects were assessed at prewaiting period, postwaiting period (which also represented pretreatment for these subjects), posttreatment, and 3-month follow-up with the same outcome measures. Results failed to uncover a statistically significant difference between wait-list subjects and treatment subjects from pretreatment to posttreatment in this difficult to treat population. However, a statistically significant difference between wait-list subjects and treatment subjects from pretreatment to follow-up was observed. Additionally, subjects who completed BAGT, regardless of initial classification, experienced statistically significant reductions in depression scale scores after 10 weeks o f treatment and this trend continued at 3-month follow-up. In light of the increased severity of the present sample compared to the Jacobson et al. (1996) sample, it is suggested that these findings support further investigation into BAGT as a treatment for clinical depression.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access