What Therapists (Ok, Just this One) Are Saying About Mental Health Chatbots

Earlier this summer, articles about “WoeBot” took social media by storm. Or at least in the mental health and technology circles I hang with. And in case you missed it the WoeBot is a automated chatbot that checks on you daily and offers some “sessions” in cognitive behavioral therapy. It was again brought up on Facebook and I sort of dismissed it. My gut reaction is there is no way that robot could replace a therapist and if it did. It would be rather clunky.

A robot doing therapy would probably look something like this. It would give a try but fall a bit short…

 

I thought about writing a blog post based on this GIF alone but wanted to do more research. Life happened and I moved on to other things.  But a recent conversation on twitter renewed this topic for me and helped me refine my message…

 

Other joined and shared some other thought provoking resources…

 

The above articles and resources provided some more “use cases” for chat bots in both healthcare and mental health.  This helped tip the scale for me.  I am certainly more open the possibility of chatbots for mental health. Still maintaining my stance that technology can be an adjunct to treatment but not a full on replacement.

I think the WoeBot can be good adjunct to therapy.  There could be two very useful scenarios.  One would be those who are placed on a wait-list. To start some WoeBot sessions to get a sense of what CBT is like and if it is a good fit. The data that is generated can be useful for the first actual session.  Similar to previous posts I have argued that data generated by using technology can create a “sitting around the campfire” talking about it scene. You can go into the session and talk about what you and WoeBot did.

The other useful scenario is as a bridge between therapy sessions. That again the conversation with the WoeBot can reinforce the face to face relationship with the therapist. Also thinking about how a WoeBot can be part of somebody’s discharge plan. That after you are done with therapy then use the WoeBot to reinforce things. If one does not feel like the WoeBot is enough they can promptly return to therapy.

Image Credit: WoeBot.IO

 

I continue to be enthused about mental health apps. However I remain cautious of these being stand alone treatments.  Yes there are not enough therapists and psychiatrists. Yes we need to do something different. And no mental health professionals don’t have to run the other way from technology.  We should be embracing mental health apps as our assists.  In the case of WoeBot our virtual assistant.  It would be in the interest of therapists and maybe insurance companies to take a deeper dive into this technology to see how we can make therapy a more active than a passive experience.

 

I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to comment below, yell at me on twitter @StuckOnSW, or email me at StuckOnSW@yahoo.com 

Advertisements

Guest Post For HealthcareScene.Com: Building a Bridge Between #HITsm & #SWtech

The last two weeks have presented an interesting convergence of events. As a social worker attempting to keep up with the latest technology, I use several means. One of them is to follow two hashtags on twitter. #SWtech is a smallish group of social workers interested in the latest technology and its impact on our profession. The other is #HITsm. Readers of this blog are probably a more aware of this larger community. Networking with those on the #HITsm hashtag has helped shed light on the barriers and also innovations that drive health information technology.  This knowledge is something I have tried to bring back to the #SWtech group and my social media audience. The social work community has been little skittish about health information technology.  That privacy and cost often limit our ability to implement technology.

Find out more about how the #SWtech and #HITsm communities can learn from each other in my full post. 

 

Tools For Practice Tuesday: “Stress Free” App via Thrive

I had the pleasure to be invited by Sam Glass of Thrive, based in the UK, to demo their stress management app. Mental health apps continue to interest me.  From the case management perspective, I look for two main things. First that the app can be the extension of a therapy session that can be a “homework assignment”. Secondly, the app should be able to track progress so that the user can get feedback and potentially share with their care team.

Personally I like apps that have an easy and creative interface.  The “Stress Free” App offers all of these things. It asks you to rate your mood/stress level. Based on this it makes recommendations and a menu of choices for stress management….

                                   

 

I enjoyed the menu of various coping strategies. There is also educational material about each coping strategy. It’s one thing to suggest doing deep muscle relaxation, but it’s other thing to explain “the why”. It guides you though various activities using an avatar to walk you through…

 

More importantly it has a mood and activity tracker to measure progress. I feel very strongly about the potential of mood trackers. Maybe it’s just my slight bias as a therapist. I wonder if users find these kind of trackers helpful? Would also love to know if any therapists have put progress/measurements of an App in a treatment plan? (but I digress). It produces a progress chart…

On the enjoyable interface side, the Zen Rock Garden (or the beach garden as this app is beach themed) was an added bonus.  The beach theme is a nice part of the user experience as well. Maybe this is my bias because I love the beach too. The Zen Garden offers a nice place to distract and relax you…

For those working on stress management, I found the “Stress Free” App a good tool. To learn more about Thrive and the “Stress Free App” visit them at their website: www.thrive.uk.com

Also follow them on Social Media:

Twitter: @ThriveAppsUK 

Facebook: Thrive – Therapeutic Software 

Instagram: @ThriveAppsUK