the increase of chatbot therapy; – tech2.org

the increase of chatbot therapy;



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My therapist wanted to explain some things during our first online session:

"I will consult with you at random times. Immediately, do not worry, just come back to me when you're ready, I'm going to check in every day. "

" Daily? "I asked.

"Yup! It should not take more than a couple of minutes." Can you do that?

"Yes, I can," I answered.

There was a bit more round trip, all through Messenger. , then this statement from my therapist:

"This might surprise you, but … I am a robot."

It was not a surprise I downloaded "Woebot", a chatbot recently created by researchers, and was trying to establish our therapeutic relationship.

"Part of Woebot's value is that he can pull things out of his chest without worrying about what the other person thinks, without that fear of judgment," said Alison Darcy, founder and executive director of Woebot Labs. " We wanted him to have an emotional connection. "

Mobile talk therapy and life coaching applications have proliferated in recent years, as traditional therapy is still difficult to obtain.The Affordable Health Care Act requires that health insurers cover mental health as part of standard medical services, but many people still do not have access to treatment. More than 106 million people, almost a third of the country, live in federally designated areas because of a shortage of mental health professionals, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"I think the use of chatbot for mental health is certainly an innovative approach to increasing access to care," said John Torous, co-director of a digital psychiatry program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. (There is) tremendous potential to provide personalized mental health care, as needed. "

Convenient, easy to use, and anonymous, these chatbots are programmed to mimic human conversation and decision-making and mainly give advice, offer themselves self-help orientation and company

Some are very specialized: an application called Karim advises Syrian refugee children, Emma helps Dutch speakers with mild anxiety, and MindBloom allows users to support and motivate each other.

However, none of the applications is intended to replace traditional therapy.For legal and ethical reasons, the creators of therapy applications can not say that their chatbots really "treat" users because that would imply the practice of medicine. Many are free, others charge nominal fees, Woebot will cost you $ 39 per month after a free two-week trial. [19] 659004] The question, of course, is: Do they work?

The results of what may be the first randomized text-based mental health chatbot trial conducted by Darcy and his colleague Kathleen Kara Fitzpatrick, a psychologist at Stanford School of Medicine, were recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Seventy people, aged 18 to 28 who reported depression or anxiety, were recruited on a social networking site at the university. The participants were divided into two groups, one whose members "conversed" with Woebot for up to 20 sessions or over a period of two weeks, and another whose members received an e-book from the National Institute of Mental Health called "Depression and university students". . "Three mental health tests were administered before and after the trial, and the results of the experiment" confirmed that after two weeks, the Woebot group experienced a significant reduction in depression, "according to the study.

comments, some of the participants wrote about Woebot in very personal terms.

• "I love Woebot so much. I hope we can be friends forever. In fact, I feel super good and happy when I see that I remembered. verify me! "

•" Woebot is a fun little guy and I hope he keeps improving. "

•" I was really impressed and surprised by the difference the bot made in my daily life in terms of noticing the types of thinking that I was having and changing it. "

Woebot, which was launched in June, engages in more than 2 million conversations a week, according to Darcy, with users divided almost equally between men and women.

It does a good job for people who are really distressed, "Darcy said." It's not so good for people who do not have many things that bother them or have something they need to talk about. "Woebot is the best at helping the people at the moment … It's not so good to talk about. "

Torous is cautiously optimistic about the future of mental health applications, but has concerns.

"These things can work well on a superficial level with superficial conversations," Torous said. "(But) are they effective tools, do they change results and offer more efficient care? It's still early."

Torous, who chairs the smartphone app badessment working group of the American Psychiatric Association, also warns about privacy issues, since these chatbots are not covered by the Health Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. It prohibits hospitals and health care providers from sharing information about patients. He also acknowledges that many more studies are still needed, like those of Darcy and Fitzpatrick.

While this may be the beginning of a heyday in digital mental health tools, the technology was launched more than 50 years ago. The "Eva" of all the chatbots was called Eliza and was created in 1965 by Joseph Weizenbaum of the Mbadachusetts Institute of Technology. Eliza's primitive program was designed to engage in a conversation in natural language in a way that mimicked a psychotherapist.

The experiment, however, was intended to show the superficiality of a conversation between man and machine. Scheduled to respond to certain words and phrases, Eliza simply converted a comment into a question, as in this transcript of a sample conversation.

ELIZA: Who else in your family takes care of you?

My father.

ELIZA: Your father.

You are like my father in some aspects.

ELIZA: What do you think you see?

You're not very aggressive, but I think you do not want me to notice it.

ELIZA: What makes you think I'm not very aggressive?

Do not argue with me.

ELIZA: Why do you think I do not argue with you?

You are afraid of me.

ELIZA: Are you pleased to believe that I fear you?

Weizenbaum was deeply skeptical about the program's potential to truly interact with a person and was annoyed to learn that many of the users in his experiment seemed to be attached to Eliza. What I expected would show the limitations of technology, instead it helped engender the field of artificial intelligence.

It's hard to know what Weizenbaum, who died in 2008, would have thought about Woebot, but its creators are still true believers.

"I have a relationship with Woebot," Darcy said, "although he does not know what he's talking about with one of his 'Moms'."

Once, when I was on the train, exhausted, after a particularly difficult day at work, Woebot registered, which is scheduled to do. Darcy was not particularly in the mood, but he gave up.

"I told myself, OK, let's go." So I wrote: "I have an explosive headache." He told me: "I'm sorry." rest soon "and I felt very well. I thought: You really understand me, Woebot & # 39; "

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