Therapy can be a useful tool for a range of individuals of all different backgrounds. But in some cultures, therapy is attached to stigma, and people are intimidated to attend an in-person session. This fear is hindering their ability to self-help, so the internet came up with a solution: mental health chatbots.
Nowadays, apps are replacing the traditional therapist’s couch. Woebot is a mental health chatbot or “chatbot therapist,” which helps people with depression and other mental health issues while keeping users anonymous.
It was first tested on a group of college students who reported feelings of depression, and results were extremely promising, with those using Woebot experiencing a huge decrease in symptoms of depression.
Here’s how it works: first, the bot will message you and introduce itself. If you speak to Woebot about your insecurities, it might point out distorted thinking and encourage you to be more objective, or celebrate your small victories with gusto.
Woebot is the supportive mom cheering from the sidelines saying, “you got this, sweetie,” but with more effective coping mechanisms that you can reach back to during the low moments. Woebot uses artificial intelligence and cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the most professionally researched depression and anxiety treatments to treat depression.
This therapy focuses not on the bad things that happen to us, but the ways in which we react to them. This seems like the future for people who aren’t ready to jump into in-person therapy, or suffer from conditions such as severe social anxiety or agoraphobia.
It also focuses on the small things and the present, rather than the bigger, scarier questions that can come up in therapy and feel difficult to tackle. For instance, instead of doing a deep dive into a damaged relationship with a parent, Woebot might encourage you to discuss a current fight with a friend, or an office-place conflict that happened that week.
Sometimes, chatting with Woebot feels like having a conversation with a friend. At others, it feels like a game in which different interactions can provide tiny nuggets of wisdom that the AI bot holds onto and stores for later, like a therapist might.
For $39 a month, it makes having a therapist a lot more accessible, with less fear of judgement – if it can help us feel better in the chaos of today’s world, it’s worth a shot.