What are chatbots?
Chatbots are software programs that are designed to serve as conversation partners. These programs use artificial intelligence to provide users with real-time chats that mimic conversations with a real person.
How can a chatbot help my mental health?
Chatbots have been incorporated into some mental health apps, to help users work through how they are feeling through questions, assessments, suggestions for activities, and skills-building. Examples of chatbot apps include Woebot, Wysa, Replika, and Youper. Some mental health chatbots are made by psychology researchers, AI engineers, and clinical practitioners whose expertise come together to create a therapy bot. These bots can guide users through evidence-based therapy techniques such as meditations, mindfulness practices, and mood tracking.
What are some benefits of chatbots?
There is emerging evidence that chatbots can be an effective resource to help manage mental health challenges such as depression. One study investigated whether using a chatbot more often might lead to differences in feelings of depression, and found that people who used a mental health chatbot often (high engagement group) reported a larger decrease in feelings of depression compared to people who used it less often (low engagement group) (Inkster, Sarda, & Subramanian, 2018).
Another study by Fitzpatrick, Darcy, & Vierhile (2017) compared depression outcomes in people who were randomly assigned to receive a chatbot (Woebot) based on techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or an information only condition. The information only group was told to visit an informational ebook written by the National Institutes of Mental Health, called “Depression in College Students”. The group who received the chatbot reported a significant decrease in feelings of depression, while the information only group did not .
The studies support the use of mental health chatbots for reducing feelings of depression. Mental health apps in general are an accessible, convenient, and cost-effective method of receiving mental health support. Read more about the benefits and limitations of mental health apps here.
How do I find a chatbot app?
The One Mind PsyberGuide app guide has a filter for chatbots and users can find reviews and scores based on credibility, user experience, and transparency. The apps listed may be focused on different therapy practices such as gratitude journals or mood tracking. Reading app descriptions and reviews on your phone’s app store may be helpful in deciding which app would be a good fit for your interests.
Inkster, B., Sarda, S., Subramanian, V. (2018). An Empathy-Driven, Conversational Artificial Intelligence Agent (Wysa) for Digital Mental Well-Being: Real-World Data Evaluation Mixed-Methods Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 6(11), e12106. https://doi.org/10.2196/12106
Fitzpatrick, K., Darcy, A., Vierhile, M. (2017). Delivering Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Young Adults With Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety Using a Fully Automated Conversational Agent (Woebot): A Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Mental Health, 4(2), e19. https://doi.org/10.2196/mental.7785