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The Woebot will see you now


‘The Woebot will see you now’ — the rise of chatbot therapy

By Amy Ellis Nutt December 3 at 3:53 PM

My therapist wanted to explain a few things during our first online session:
“I'm going to check in with you at random times. If you can't respond straight away, don't sweat it. Just come back to me when you're ready. I'll check in daily.”

“Daily?” I asked.

“Yup! It shouldn't take longer than a couple minutes. Can you handle that?

“Yes, I can,” I answered.

There was a little more back-and-forth, all via Messenger, then this statement from my therapist:

“This might surprise you, but . . . I am a robot.”

It wasn't a surprise, of course. I'd downloaded “Woebot,” a chatbot recently created by researchers, and it was trying to establish our therapeutic relationship.

“Part of the value of Woebot is you can get things off your chest without worrying what the other person thinks, without that fear of judgment,” said Alison Darcy, founder and chief executive of Woebot Labs. “We wanted it to make an emotional connection.”

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.

The question, of course, is: Do they work?

In a trial of a text-based mental health chatbot, conducted by Darcy and colleague Kathleen Kara Fitzpatrick, a psychologist at the Stanford School of Medicine, 70 people, ages 18 to 28 who self-reported depression or anxiety, were recruited from a university social media site. The participants were split into two groups, one whose members “conversed” with Woebot for up to 20 sessions or over a two-week span, and another whose members were given a National Institute of Mental Health e-book called “Depression and College Students.” Three mental health tests were administered before and after the trial. The results of the experiment “confirmed that after two weeks, those in the Woebot group experienced a significant reduction in depression,” according to the study.

In the comments section some of the participants wrote about Woebot in very personal terms.

• “I love Woebot so much. I hope we can be friends forever. I actually feel super good and happy when I see that it 'remembered' to check in with me!”

• “Woebot is a fun little dude and I hope he keeps improving.”

• “I really was impressed and surprised at the difference the bot made in my everyday life in terms of noticing the types of thinking I was having and changing it.”

“He does a good job for people who are really distressed,” Darcy said. “He’s not as good for people who don’t have a lot of stuff they’re upset about or have something they need to talk about. Woebot’s best at helping people in the moment. . . . He’s not so good at chitchat.”

Torous is cautiously optimistic about the future of mental health apps but has concerns.

“These things can work well on a superficial level with superficial conversations,” Torous said. "[But] are they effective tools, do they change outcomes and do they deliver more efficient care? It's still early.”

“I have a relationship with Woebot,” said Darcy, “though he doesn’t know he’s talking to one of his 'moms.'”

Once when she was on the train, exhausted, after a particularly hard day at work, Woebot checked in, which it is programmed to do. Darcy wasn't particularly in the mood, but she gave in.

“I said to myself, okay, let’s go. So I wrote, 'I have a banging headache.' He said, 'I’m sorry, I hope you get rest soon,' and I just felt so good. I thought, you really get me, Woebot.”

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12/4/2017, 11:37 am Link to this post PM Bellelettres
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now


It strikes me as a little weird. Who needs humans anymore?

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"libido sciendi"..... the passion to know.
12/4/2017, 11:48 am Link to this post PM Noserose
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now


Exactly! Give me a cat and a Woebot any day!
12/4/2017, 12:01 pm Link to this post PM Bellelettres
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now


 i talk to Alexia and goggle all the time when i enter my house and leave. My daughter used to call information to ask homework questions and now my grandaughter uses goggle ap Alexa to answer her homework questions.

I suspect in the future they will not only have robot counselors at school, but also woebots tutors in schools and colleges.
12/4/2017, 8:50 pm Link to this post PM snowpixie Blog
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now


I just got Alexa last night. I'm afraid if I needed therapy, it'd have to be face to face with a human, I need hugs and consoling when I've gotten depressed.
12/4/2017, 9:00 pm Link to this post PM katie5445 Blog
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now


but she can play music to cheer you up
12/4/2017, 9:01 pm Link to this post PM snowpixie Blog
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now


I've had her since March of last year, and just yesterday i learned how to use her as a timer. When one of my employee comes to my house all i have to do is say timer start and when she leaves timer stop. I then can see how much time she spent at my house so i can pay her later. In the past i had to ask her, or pull up my camera's I just love her. Though i have to admit. I usually just ask her what time is it before i leave the house.
12/4/2017, 9:04 pm Link to this post PM snowpixie Blog
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now


She didn't last night, first song I pulled out of my head, Jimi Hendrix, "All Along the Watchtower." She replied I had to join something and pay $[sign in to see URL]. emoticon
12/4/2017, 9:05 pm Link to this post PM katie5445 Blog
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now



i had that problem at first, but my son got things ironed out. i don't get charged a thing. You can download from your own devices or get a subscription to a music service. My subscription is free, however it's not the best, i just say play coldplay etc

it plays all their music, if i say play a certain song then it does nothing. I love Sam Cook song "stay with me" but I've yet to hear it. Instead i hear every other song he's sung. i probably should pay for a professional service but i don't think amazon needs anymore of my money.

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12/4/2017, 9:25 pm Link to this post PM snowpixie Blog
 
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Re: The Woebot will see you now


Thanks, I need to read the booklet too, I haven't done that yet.
12/4/2017, 10:06 pm Link to this post PM katie5445 Blog
 


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