On Washington Post:
by Amy Ellis Nutt
Dec 3, 2017
…It wasn’t a surprise, of course. I’d downloaded “Woebot,” a chatbot recently created by researchers, and it was trying to establish our therapeutic relationship.
“Part of the value of Woebot is you can get things off your chest without worrying what the other person thinks, without that fear of judgment,” said Alison Darcy, founder and chief executive of Woebot Labs. “We wanted it to make an emotional connection.”
Mobile talk-therapy and life-coaching apps have proliferated in the past few years as traditional therapy has remained difficult to obtain. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to cover mental health as part of standard medical services, but many people still do not have access to treatment. More than 106 million people — nearly a third of the country — live in areas that are federally designated as having a shortage of mental-health-care professionals, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
…Convenient, easy to use and anonymous, these chatbots are programmed to mimic human conversation and decision-making and primarily give advice, offer self-help guidance and companionship.
…The question, of course, is: Do they work?
[Tests were run on people with anxiety and depression]
… The results of the experiment “confirmed that after two weeks, those in the Woebot group experienced a significant reduction in depression,” according to the study.
…Torous, who is chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s smartphone app evaluation work group, also warns about privacy issues, since these chatbots are not covered by the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which prohibits hospitals and health-care providers from sharing information about patients.
You can read more of that here (Washington Post site)