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Stanford-Developed Chatbot Targets Depression And Anxiety

Stanford-Developed Chatbot Targets Depression And Anxiety
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The endearing bot administers psychologist-approved therapy techniques via Facebook Messenger

Laura Yan
  • 19 june 2017

Woebot is a charismatic chatbot that offers cognitive behavioral therapy in text byte doses—emojis included. The bot was developed by a team of Stanford psychologists and AI experts and is equipped with daily mood-monitoring conversations, video and word games, mood-tracking technology and other resources to help support users with their mental health. Unlike conventional therapists, Woebot is available 24/7 and will never judge a patient’s thoughts.

“Woebot is a robot you can tell anything to,” Woebot CEO and psychologist Alison Darcy told Wired. “It’s not an AI that’s going to tell you stuff you don’t know about yourself by detecting some magic you’re not even aware of.”

The Woebot team recently published a peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Mental Health, which showed a significant reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms for Woebot users (compared to a group told to rely on a self-help e-book.) Perhaps it’s Woebot’s daily check-ins and breezy conversational style that make mental health care more accessible, or its constant availability that helps.

Woebot isn’t without its flaws: for the moment, the chatbot is only available on Facebook Messenger. While Woebot users are anonymous, Facebook retains access to user data and conversations. The Woebot team is trying to raise funds to create a stand-alone app, but for the moment users are limited by Facebook’s privacy guidelines. And, as the robot itself reminds you: ”A human may never see what you type, so please don’t use this as a substitute for getting help.”

But for young people who might have difficulty accessing mental health care elsewhere, Woebot is a fun way to stay aware of one’s mental health traps. Woebot offers a two-week free trial, after which interested users can register for the service for $39 per month.

Woebot

+artificial intelligence
+chatbot
+Facebook Messenger
+Health
+mental health
+technology
+wellness
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