Feb 12, 2021, Innovations

Voicebots in psychotherapy – healing depression?

Aneta Skoczewska Business Consultant

Last decade brought a considerable growth of morbidity in the field of mental health. It’s estimated that over 264 million people in the world are clinically depressed, 1 out of 5 kids and teenagers suffers from a mental disease, and alcohol addiction kills even 3 million women and men a year. Statistics are unrelenting, but all of these disorders can be treated with a properly adjusted pharmaco- and psychotherapy. Does the health system cope with such a large number of patients? Unfortunately, not always. Hopefully, artificial intelligence solutions like voice bots and chat bots come to the rescue. You wonder how they can support physicians in a demanding task of taming a human psyche? It turns out that quite effectively. And it’s not a science-fiction movie intro. We live in the XXI century in which a robot can be a reliable psychotherapist, too.

Mental health in our every-day reality

Mental health problems influence the standard of our professional and private lives. They cause insomnia, deterioration of physical health, decreased satisfaction with personal life, and family relationships falloff. Remote work has a varied impact on our lives as well. 62% of interviewees perceive it quite positively. It allows them to spend more time with their families, sleep well, and effectively fulfil their daily chores. On the other hand, working from home can interfere with the boundaries between our private and professional life which can result in working after hours or even a burnout.

Stress-inducing effects of pandemic

Year 2020 hasn’t been helpful at all, becoming a sad social media meme of the whole world. It resonated with many unpleasant events which destroyed order on nearly every continent and forced us to completely change our lifestyle. Coronavirus and the endangerment it brought aroused anxiety and gloom, increasing the level of stress. We were exposed to the lack of contact with people, being locked at home and a constant fear for the health of our loved ones. In such difficult times, many of us sought help in psychotherapy. An interaction with another person and a possibility to talk about our maladies and fears can be an effective way to deal with our worries and organize a scattered pandemic reality. But does this person really have to be human?

Voice AI – talks and helps

Latest research has shown that when having a choice between talking to a psychotherapist and a voice bot or a chat bot, we prefer to entrust our mental health to artificial intelligence. Why do we choose a contact with a machine instead of another human being? It turns out that bots are simply more understanding – they don’t judge, are free of prejudice and can quickly answer any health-related questions.

Advantages of using voicebots and chatbots in psychotherapy

Although the topic seems a bit controversial, psychotherapists are not afraid of using intelligent bots, especially before contacting a patient for the first time. A clever voice bot or chat bot can help us get accustomed to a new situation, answer basic questions connected with our mental state and offer some further steps of treatment – redirecting us to a qualified medical staff. And that’s not all.

1. The use of known and proven psychological practices

Both voice bots and chatbots can be programmed according to the most effective techniques used in contemporary psychotherapy. A good example is a cognitive-behavioral therapy which deals with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Research shows that it really works! Scientists compared examples of patients who interacted with one of the most known chat bot psychotherapists – Woebot – and a group that sought support in book guides. The former had a considerable reduction in symptoms, while the latter had no significant changes.

It proves that a bot is able to teach patients basic techniques of coping with their mental state – the same ones which they would be introduced to by a psychotherapist. An additional advantage of AI-based solutions is their wide accessibility. A patient who needs help doesn’t have to book an appointment. A chat bot or a voice bot is available 24/7 and ready to listen to our problems regardless of the time.

2. Encouragement to seek the help of a specialist

Even people with an easy access to medical support often delay their visit to a specialist, risking aggravation of the disease. Why does it happen? It turns out that the largest blocker is the fear of being judged. Additionally, patients often marginalize their state, coming to the conclusion that “everybody’s got their problems” and they will get back to normal soon enough.

Fortunately, we have yet another chatbot therapist come to the rescue. It’s a penguin named Wysa which motivates its patients to use professional help. It uses an intelligent mood monitor that detects their worse well-being and encourages them to take a depression test. Although it may sound a little weird, it can be quite useful. Depending on acquired results, a robot can persuade a patient to use psychological help. After all, nobody can resist a cute penguin.

Apart from that, Wysa documents our mood swings – thus, we can monitor every mental breakdown and analyze both our state and situations that caused it. Many patients are not aware of how long the symptoms last. Bot makes them realize the seriousness of the situation and the necessity to deal with it.

3. Better and more accurate diagnostics

To make a more accurate diagnosis, a psychotherapist has to be familiarized with a patient’s history, ask some valid questions and suggest an efficient solution. However, treating a patient holistically based on one’s personal experience doesn’t always result in drawing the right conclusions, which may end up frustrating both a doctor and a patient.

There’s proof that the process can be made more effective. What helps is thoroughly analyzing a patient’s social media. Wide usage of artificial intelligence on services such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram allows us to analyze a person’s mental state, based on acquired data. An example of the solution’s efficiency is an algorithm created by scientists which was supposed to analyze Instagram posts of chosen patients. As a result, it managed to diagnose as much as 70% of depression cases! For comparison, the effectiveness of doctors is about 42%.

Let’s assume that not all of the questions asked by a psychotherapist are relevant, and a patient forgets to mention a few crucial things that would unequivocally point at a certain disease or be a warning sign. Voice bot or chat bot would be able to analyze all of the information more accurately and alarm a doctor about a patient’s deteriorating mental state which would lead to a more effective diagnosis and proper treatment.

4. Solving the problem of medical staff shortage

Although we can’t really complain about the inaccessibility of a psychological care in larger cities, it can be problematic for people living in smaller towns and villages. There are not enough specialists to take care of all the people who need help – especially in the times of a global crisis and a falloff of the society’s state of mind.

Only in the United States more than 106 million people live in areas with a psychological staff shortage problem. As a result, not every patient is able to get to the nearest medical center to use a specialist’s help. In that case, using an intelligent bot seems like the last resort. It can for example inform a doctor that a patient could be suicidal. 

Empowering Future Psychotherapy with AI Voice Solutions

As technology continues to advance, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) voice solutions in psychotherapy holds immense potential for revolutionizing mental health care. Through automatic speech recognition, natural language processing, and interactive voice response, these AI-powered voice bots offer a new dimension of accessibility and effectiveness in therapy. By enabling seamless customer interactions, personalized natural language understanding, and adaptive machine learning algorithms, they cater to diverse patient needs and preferences. From providing instant responses to customer inquiries to enhancing the overall customer experience, AI-powered voice solutions are poised to shape the future of psychotherapy. As the field evolves, harnessing the capabilities of AI voice technology promises to augment the capabilities of therapists, improve diagnostic accuracy, and ultimately, empower individuals on their journey towards mental well-being.

Voicebot in the psychotherapist’s office

Voice AI solutions can also be a direct support for psychotherapists in organizing their every-day office work. A voicebot is able to:

  • Answer a phone call, provide basic information, and appoint a visit
  • Contact a chosen group of patients if there’s a need of cancelling a visit and arrange another date
  • Call patients to confirm their visits
  • Inform about promotions, dedicated events, and group classes
  • Act as a knowledge base, providing patients with in-depth information on a chosen topic

Psychotherapy of the future – summing up

Although applications that support psychotherapists are still quite fresh, both WHO and their users indicate that they’re a necessary solution. Wide usage of smartphones and seamless Wi-Fi connection make a robot accessible for thousands of patients, allowing them to conveniently and anonymously use the help they need.

In the future, voicebots and chatbots will be used for even better detection of human emotions. Though, we can’t really count on them to completely replace psychotherapists, they can support their every-day duties and let them do their job more accurately and efficiently.

If you’re wondering how to use a voicebot in your own business, we’ll be happy to adjust the solution to your patients’ and offices’ needs. Just let us know!