Scientists at the Standford University along with AI experts have developed a chatbot to treat depression. By using brief daily chat conversations, mood tracking, curated videos, and word games, Woebot help people manage mental health.
Scientists developed this chatbot with the aim of combating the poor adherence people usually have with web-based apps for depression. It also mitigates the cost and inconvenience of mental health treatment.
In order to treat depression, the bot uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) principles. Although, CBT is a that mainly focus on depression’s impact of the present rather than the trauma of the past. According to researchers, it has the potential to actually improve on human therapists.
Alison Darcy, one of the psychologists behind Woebot said, “It’s almost borderline illegal to say this in my profession, but there’s a lot of noise in human relationships. Noise is the fear of being judged. That’s what stigma really is.”
While Woebot might seem like a person, it primarily identifies negative self-talk and all-or-nothing thinking. It then exchanges messages with you via your smartphone. For instance, if you typed, ‘I am a useless person,’ it would reply you that this may be just a single instance of failure and then help the patient identify self-loathing patterns.
Unlike other machine learning technologies, Woebot is much more deterministic. It gathers mood data and processes any texts and emojis that a patient might enter.
Most of the time, it asks questions like:
“What is your energy like today?”, “How are you feeling?”, What’s going on in your world right now?”
The trials were conducted on 70 individuals between 18- and 28-years-old who were randomized to receive Woebot treatment or the National Institute of Mental Health ebook, which served as a control. And guess what, it provides almost definitive results. Woebot significantly reduced their symptoms of depression over the study period.
According to the estimates, depression affects 18 percent of the population over 18-years-old, making it one of the leading causes of disability in the country. But as results suggest, this chatbot can improve these people’s lives, and help ease a little strain from the psychology industry’s finite resources.
Darcy said, “It is also emblematic of the increasing integration of chatbots into our society for humanitarian ends. Chatbots have also been used, with promising results, to improve the lives of thousands by providing legal help to refugees and helping doctors with diagnoses in the medical sector.”