How are you feeling right now? You would reply “oh I am fine” or “I am feeling good”. But how are you feeling these days?
If anyone asks you this question, you may feel a little discomfort or question yourself before opening up. And even if you open up, will you be 100% honest about what you say about how you feel and what you are going through? Of course, you won’t.
You may feel that the person who is listening to you will judge you, no matter how close you are with that person. And then, when you think about going to therapy, you start feeling ashamed and have thoughts about what your family and friends will say. Or you will think they might look down on you. But what if you are able to share whatever you are feeling with privacy guaranteed and without any judgmental thoughts? You will be able to receive therapy, but not from a human therapist but from an AI therapist.
As the world is developing and the competition is increasing, be it at the workplace, school, university, or even at home and among friends, people tend to stress out a lot, not only because of the competition but also because of personal problems and the fear of the future. The need for mental health care dates back many decades, but after the pandemic, people became more aware of why keeping mental health in a stable state is necessary. And due to that, the demand for it is increasing, be it from a therapist, psychologist, or even a psychiatrist.
And often, there’s a stigma in our society that still exists. I remember there was a time when people used to think that if a particular person sought therapy, then that person was considered insane or mad. And this same belief exists in remote places.
As demand increases, our government and people are ready to provide specific mental health care services, but not everyone is able to have access to this service or mental health-related program.
Some are not financially capable of affording the therapy, including children, and some are taking steps due to the stereotypes in society. But how can technology ignore this problem when artificial intelligence is assisting everyone in every field.
We all use AI in some way while using different forms of gadgets. Even a school-age child nowadays has access to a smartphone. So many therapists came together to form a chatbot that works as an AI therapist. Anyone can have access to these chatbots just by installing the app; some of them are free and some require minimal charges.
This AI therapist in the form of chatbots is easily accessible, so you may get therapy without asking or telling the world that you are getting therapy. You just have to be honest and chat with your AI therapist just like you would with a normal friend, and then you will receive consultancy and advice.
1. Just How Does This AI Chatbots Function in a Therapeutic Way?
AI therapist bots are essentially chatbots with the ability to provide online therapy in accordance with the rules and concept of emotional appeal and Artificial Intelligence. It is a conversational tool used mainly to assist a psychologist or any other mental health specialist. This chatbot helps people who are dealing with depression, anxiety, stress, or any other mental health disorder.
ELIZA was the first chatbot functioning as an AI therapist, and now the number of mental health chatbots has increased, like Wysa, Woebot, Limbic, Riseup, etc. These chatbots are mainly based on algorithms and automated responses. Around you, there might be many people, including your friend or your younger sibling, who might be suffering from one or another mental health disorder, and they somewhere desire to seek help from a therapist, but they might be afraid to speak up, or they might think that what they are feeling will go away as time passes.
This is where chatbots come into play. Your friend or your younger sibling can just download the app and subscribe to it. These chatbots will ask you a few questions, just like a normal professional therapist would. Based on the type of answer you are giving, this AI therapist will analyze your response and, based on what problem you are going through or how you are feeling, they will start having a conversation with you like a friend and will give you advice and a few tasks from which you may feel good.
Through chatbots, you can share your progress toward mental health stability with your AI therapist anytime and anywhere. No matter where you are or what time you drop a message, even if it’s 2 a.m., your AI therapist will help you out and give you advice.
This AI therapist of yours will keep track of your responses and prompts and will give specific advice to see if you are getting help from it or if the graph of your mental health is going down.
You will be able to review your report and the progress made at the end. And if sometimes you don’t know what exact words to use to describe how you are feeling at that particular moment, there’s also a feature where answers are already there in the dialogue box as per your previous prompts, and you can just select one option from it and send the responses. This automated response will assist you in putting your situation and feelings into words.
All bot conversations and AI therapist advice will be tailored specifically to you, allowing you to feel more at ease and secure about your mental health stability.
Based on what you are going through, you would be asked to do certain therapeutic tasks like taking a walk while listening to music, drawing, painting, or even cooking. After completing the task, you would report it to your chatbot, and then it would ask, “How did you feel while doing that particular task? Did you have any therapeutic experience while performing that task?
Your mental well-being partner may help you with different therapy sessions that you can schedule at any time. Most chat bots use CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy); they talk with you in a very rational and practical way, which may help you look at your problem or feelings from a different perspective. After the therapeutic session, the AI therapist changes its mode again and has a conversation with you in a light-hearted manner. Some apps have a journal feature where, at the end of the day, you would be able to write down how your day was or how you felt throughout the whole day.
2. A Human Therapist: Can We Replace Them with AI Therapist?
Earlier AI therapist-related chatbots were created to assist professional therapists, but now most people all around the world are fully dependent on these chatbots, and these AI therapists are taking the place of the real ones.
The major concern with using these chatbots as the sole therapy is that they are completed based on algorithms and automated responses, and they do not fully understand how that user is feeling in real life. You can’t be sure that a user who talks about their mental health is telling the truth or isn’t hiding their thoughts and feelings. Because over here the only source to receive help is chatting, the user explains his or her mental health to chatbots however he or she wants to.
But in this situation, will the chatbots be able to cure or cause more harm?
Sometimes the words of people who are suffering from some serious mental health problems are not enough; studying the body language, emotions, and facial expressions tells a lot about what the person is going through and at what level, and what type of help they need. In such cases, what will the chatbots do?
No matter how easily this AI therapist will be accessible, what’s the guarantee of how accurate the therapy or the advice given by the chatbot will be? And the patients’ 100% privacy is not at all guaranteed.
When a person is going through a difficult time, they often seek warmth and comfort. In real life, when a person shares something with the therapist, before responding, the therapist thinks about the response in an emotional and practical way and gives it after seeing that it shouldn’t trigger the person’s mental health or feelings.
Therapy is always about human-to-human emotions and feelings. Because only humans can truly understand human emotion, no matter how advanced the technology or how much time the AI therapist spends chatting with the user, even a real therapist can’t provide proper therapy in chat. And over here, chatbots are full-on automated responses; chatbots give responses immediately without thinking much about the user’s feelings.
Mental health is a huge concept as well as a concern, especially after the pandemic, and it is obvious that businessmen will try to make money out of it. Chatbots can be useful, but only as a supplement. Chatbot companies should add a feature to their apps where a real human therapist can monitor their patients in those chatbot apps. Chatbots should work as an assistant to the therapist but should not take the place of the real thing.
Your mental health is a part of your medical concern; it might be good to take help from AI, but seeking professional help is important.