Mental Health Apps such as Headspace, Calm, Shine and MoodMission are widely available and used to manage stress, anxiety and depression. AI Therapy Chatbots are now being trialled in the NHS as an initiative to help those waiting on NHS waiting list . I have mixed views regarding these solutions as the foundation for therapy is building a therapeutic and collaborative alliance. Can this really be achieved by a chatbot? what are your thoughts?
Face to face Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is as much about building a human connection and trust along with using CBT Skills strategies to facilitate clients in achieving their therapeutic goals. Many people seeking and having therapy present with an array of difficulties, co-morbidities and complexities which would need to be screened to assess suitability for therapy via a chatbot. Chatbots can reduce waiting lists and improve access to therapy in a timely manner.However my major concern would be that they cannot replace real human connection as the social connection is artificial and it will be difficult for authentic empathic and active listening to occur as this relates to non verbal cues which AI Chatbots cannot understand.
Therapy is not only about what is said or communicated verbally but interpreting non verbal cues- eye contact, pauses, hand movement gestures, crying and acknowledging and formulating these are a foundation for the therapeutic alliance which is the foundation for effective therapy not only using , introducing and applying CBT Skills. Chatbots can perpetuate social exclusion and isolation which may maintain and perpetuate an Individual’s mental health difficulties in particular if they have social anxiety or avoid situations due to anxiety. panic or depression. We must be mindful not to underestimate the power of human connection and relationship as therapy is a space for Individuals to build social skills , communication and confidence which may have been hampered due to psychological difficulties.
Finally trust is critical in therapy and how can this be established with a chatbot, I believe that clients may have a false sense of confidence in AI therapy and translating the skills into the real world would be much more difficult. Chatbots could serve to discourage Individuals from seeking real authentic human relationships .
In concluding Therapy can be delivered in different modalities, virtually , in person , via chatbot, CBT Programme, group therapy or in person but Clients must have a choice with accessing therapy and I believe its better to be offered AI therapy rather than nothing at all whilst on a NHS waiting list which could be for 6 months to two years based upon my experience working in IAPT and CAMHS Services.
Would you accept therapy through a Chatbot?
Check out this article which Martina Has contributed to https://www.htworld.co.uk/news/ai/empathetic-ai-therapist-cognitive-behavioural-therapy/
BABCP Accredited Cognitive Behaviour Therapist