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August 9, 2018

The Rise Of the Robot Therapists

More than 350 million people across the world suffer from depression. When mental illness is still considered taboo and there is a global shortage of mental-health-care professionals, the internet can increase access to care. A good example is a chatbot trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Meet your own personal, charming robot – Woebot. It is helping patients already since one year.

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What is it?

Woebot is an automated conversational agent (chatbot) who helps monitor mood and learn about yourself. Drawing from a therapeutic framework known as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Woebot asks people how they’re feeling and what is going on in their lives in the format of brief daily conversations. Woebot also talks to you about mental health and wellness and sends you videos and other useful tools depending on your mood and needs at that moment.

How does it work?

Woebot is built using a combination of natural language processing, psychological expertise, excellent writing, and sense of humor to create the experience of a friendly informative conversation for all of the people that talk to him.

Does it work?

In a recent study conducted at Stanford University, using Woebot led to significant reductions in anxiety and depression among people aged 18-28 years old, compared to an information-only control group. 85% of participants used Woebot on a daily or almost daily basis.

Where you can find Woebot?

Woebot was launched on June 6th 2017 and is used now by hundreds of thousands of people in more than 130 countries. To start to chat with Woebot, you can simply send a message on Facebook (@DrWoebot) or download an app (available on the App Store & Google Play).

Conclusions

Here are some findings after 1 year of Woebot helping patients online:

  • Woebot has become a step towards frank discussion around mental health.
  • Chatbots are not going to replace therapy, but they will exist side-by-side.
  • Woebot is not therapy, but good mental health practice.
  • Chatbots can reduce the burden of mental illness on a global scale.
  • Woebot is still not an AI solution, he is based on scripts written by expert clinicians and some algorithms to appropriately classify what people are saying.

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