Mobile talk-therapy and life-coaching apps are proliferating as traditional therapy remains difficult to obtain.
So many people do not have access to treatment for mental health which should ordinarily be part of standard medical services but the advent of chatbots like Woebot provides such an access.
“I think using chatbot for mental health is certainly an innovative approach to increase 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 deliver personalized mental-health care, on demand, as needed.”
Convenient, easy to use and anonymous, these chatbots are programmed to mimic human conversation and decision-making and primarily give advice, offer self-help guidance and companionship.
Some are very specialized: An app called Karim counsels Syrian refugee children; Emma helps Dutch speakers with mild anxiety; and MindBloom allows users to support and motivate each other.
None of the apps, however, is meant to replace traditional therapy. For legal and ethical reasons, the creators of therapy apps can’t say their chatbots actually “treat” users because that would imply the practice of medicine.