Behavioral Experiments and Depression

It can be difficult to modify our thoughts or behaviors if we don’t have enough evidence to support new ways of thinking or acting. We might find new thoughts and behaviors that look good on paper and make sense intellectually, but we don’t believe in them because we don’t have experiences that back them up. And without this experiential knowledge, the new thoughts don’t resonate, and we’re skeptical the new behaviors will work. So instead of making changes, we revert to our habitual ways of thinking and acting.

Behavioural experiments are particularly important when treating depression. When we’re depressed, we can be so pessimistic that it’s difficult to believe anything is going to help. So we can have the tendency to write off any new ways of thinking or acting without even giving them a chance. And this can prevent us trying things that can help, such as behavioral activation.

But behavioral experiments give us the opportunity to test out hypotheses. Instead of just dismissing a thought like, “If I do something I’ll feel better,” or believing a thought like, “I feel too bad to do anything,” we set up an experiment and see what happens. And if the experiment fails to give us any data that we can use to help ourselves feel better, we can modify our hypothesis and/or experiment and try again.

Behavioral Experiments and Depression

You can download a Behavioral Experiment Worksheet in PDF or Word format.

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