Last Updated on January 28, 2023
Mental health is a global concern and a serious one at that. Research shows that nearly one in every four people experiences a mental health issue anytime in the year. Fortunately, we are in an era where therapy is becoming an instrumental tool in combatting mental illnesses. Therapy, in particular psychotherapy, treats mental illness through a psychological approach rather than by medical means.
Now, although therapy can refer to a physical rehabilitation process called physiotherapy, here we will be referring to psychotherapy.
In this article, we explore therapy chatbots in detail and how they can be leveraged to provide essential mental health services.
1. What is a therapy chatbot?
In the simplest sense, therapy chatbots are nothing but conversational AI-powered bots designed to help mental health patients. You can use these chatbots on websites and mobile apps to communicate with patients. They are programmed with scientifically backed information that they use during these conversations. Therapy bots are quite interesting because they can track patient conversations, monitor their intent, and provide tailored responses. While they may not be precisely equivalent to a human therapist, therapy chatbots can serve as a preliminary point of contact.
Therapy chatbots or mental health chatbots can help patients manage various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, and others. They are equipped to diagnose symptoms, provide coping strategies, and even connect patients with mental health helplines and support systems.
Also read, 10 Benefits that Chatbots Are Bringing To The US Healthcare Industry
2. How do therapy chatbots work?
Therapy bots or mental health chatbots are based on a methodology called CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In psychotherapy, CBT refers to talk therapy between a therapist and a mental health patient. It involves identifying erroneous or maladaptive thinking patterns, emotional responses, or behavior and replacing them with their beneficial counterparts.
Mental health chatbots simulate such conversations by asking highly directional questions. Based on the patient’s responses to these questions, therapy bots ask further follow-up questions to engage empathetically with the patient.
NLP and sentiment analysis is integral since they allow therapy chatbots to have more sophisticated conversations and understand trigger words in a patient’s conversation. Each trigger word has a decision tree associated with it. This allows the chatbot to gather important information and decide whether to give the patient advice or connect him or her to an expert.
3. What mental health issues can a therapy chatbot address?
As we discussed earlier, therapy bots can be used to address a variety of mental health issues. Let us take a look at some of them.
You can reach out to a therapy chatbot when troubled by deep, dark, and depressive thoughts. A trained therapy chatbot can detect specific keywords in conversations. Depending on these keywords, the chatbot follows a strategic approach wherein patients are encouraged to redirect their thoughts. They are nudged to turn their thoughts from negative to positive, and this, in turn, becomes quite therapeutic for patients.
Therapy bots are designed to help patients with anxiety work around the clock. You can benefit from essential resources and interventions through therapy chatbots when anxiety triggers you. You can design these chatbots to help patients manage their emotions and also aid in self-care.
Therapy chatbots are a boon for patients dealing with stress, especially since they are super easy to access. Therapy chatbots can prompt conversations and facilitate responses using the CBT framework. They encourage patients to talk about their emotions and thoughts, particularly those that are stress-inducing. The bots then make sense of these conversations and provide appropriate responses.
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Therapy chatbots are great tools to facilitate counseling for patients who suffer from substance abuse disorders. Chatbots can intervene in the right circumstances, understand the patient’s relapse triggers, and connect patients to any help they may need. The most significant advantage of therapy chatbots in managing addiction is that they provide a platform for patients to have open and honest conversations. It creates a safe space for people to talk to and address their concerns.
e. Mood disorders
By exploring new horizons in conversational AI, researchers have developed highly effective ways to leverage therapy chatbots to treat mood disorders. You can design these chatbots to offer encouragement, advice, motivation, and more. Patients can approach therapy chatbots without fear of any stigma. This is instrumental in managing patients with mood disorders.
You might also want to read: 5 Ways AI Chatbots are Changing the USA Healthcare Industry
4. Examples of therapy chatbots
We’ve understood how therapy chatbots work and how they can be leveraged to manage multiple mental health disorders. Let’s look at some examples of such therapy chatbots in action.
MoodKit is an app-based therapy chatbot that uses the CBT framework to help users improve their mental well-being. There are five major categories, namely Productivity, Social, Enjoyment, Physical, and Healthy Habits. Each of these categories has various activities that help users through problematic thoughts. It can track symptoms and encourages users to use their online journal feature to record their thoughts and challenges.
You can benefit from the activities the app prescribes as they are scientifically backed. The only challenge with MoodKit is that it is text-based and requires users’ time and effort to reap the platform’s full benefits.
This is yet another therapy chatbot that uses the CBT framework to help mental health patients. Along with the chatbot, the platform also includes space for journaling, mood logs, and emotional health assessment tools. The chatbot asks users questions to understand how they are feeling and even has an option that can be used to help identify how you feel. Once this is done, the chatbot asks users to identify what caused them to feel a particular way. Based on these responses, the chatbot provides a list of activities to help patients feel better.
A popular therapy chatbot, Woebot is quite helpful in delivering timely mental health support to patients. It uses a text message interface and starts by asking questions about your feelings. Patients can respond using emojis, and the bot then directs patients to access information that is relevant to the situation. It does not give patients exact answers. Instead, it helps patients to redirect their thoughts and work through their challenges to find solutions that are acceptable to them. For instance, Woebot checks in on you once a day and gauges your feelings. It helps you navigate these thoughts through journaling, reframing negative thoughts, and other CBT-based activities.
You can use Wysa, the ‘happiness buddy,’ as an anxiety therapy chatbot. An AI penguin guides and listens to you and helps you manage anxiety and stress-related symptoms. The chatbot is adept at detecting if someone is suicidal and immediately escalates the issue. Patients can vent and dump their negative thoughts and emotions. Wysa then helps patients to work through these thoughts and enables them to develop appropriate coping mechanisms to deal with such situations.
You can use this therapy chatbot to help users manage stress and anxiety. Like most therapy bots, Pacifica assesses a user’s moods, thoughts, and feelings and gives them evidence-backed strategies and activities to help manage their moods. Some recommendations include mindfulness activities, self-help paths, relaxation techniques, audio lessons, and more.
5. Difference between a therapy chatbot and a licensed psychotherapist
The differences between a therapy chatbot and a licensed therapist are evident at the outset. While a psychotherapist is a human being with expertise in treating and preventing mental health issues, a therapy chatbot is a tool that augments the psychotherapy process. It is, by no means, a replacement for a psychotherapist. Instead, when used properly, therapy chatbots and psychotherapy can work wonders in helping the mental health crisis and help millions of people across the globe.
Also read: Top 5 Use Cases of Chatbots in Healthcare
Mental health issues are highly prevalent today, and it’s only natural. The increasing stress on working individuals, parents, and children affects both physical and mental well-being in many ways and can, at times, be detrimental.
Therapy chatbots are critical in helping mitigate the mental health crisis. You can use such bots in multiple ways to regularly check in on patients suffering from ailments. These ailments can be anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Therapy chatbots are the next big thing in psychotherapy and open up new possibilities in the mental health industry. The proliferation of digital technology is vital in the progress of therapy chatbots.
Curious to know more about therapy chatbots and how you can build one for your practice? Get in touch with the conversational AI experts at Kommunicate and discover how chatbots can revolutionize mental health.
At Kommunicate, we are envisioning a world-beating customer support solution to empower the new era of customer support. We would love to have you on board to have a first-hand experience of Kommunicate. You can signup here and start delighting your customers right away.