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Chatbot Therapy: It’s Quite Effective… But it Can’t Give You a Hug

PharmaLive – by Broderick Jones and Regine Jones

How Effective Is Psychological Chat?

New York-based clinical psychologist Noel Hunter says chatbots can be an effective therapy to address “mild feelings of loneliness.” Her statement is supported by several consistent data points, including the impact of Google’s Memory Lane, which prompted doctors to conclude that having “someone”—which is to say, a chatbot—to speak with regularly has a profound impact on health and wellbeing. In addition, researchers at the University of British Columbia found that even minor interpersonal exchanges with a chatbot can increase one’s social and emotional wellbeing. Other studies have concluded that chatbots have potential in treating mental health issues and could be used as an effective tool for delivering cognitive behavioral therapy. Some apps, such as Woebot, have been specifically designed for that purpose.

Beyond formal studies, chatbot effectiveness is further demonstrated by the over-half-a-million people who downloaded the chatbot-enabled app, Replika; the 17% uptick in traffic for chatbot Mitsuku when lockdowns came into effect; and the fact that Wysa, a chatbot designed specifically to give mental health advice, had 95% more installs from February to June 2020 (compared to the same period last year). This increased utilization clearly signals a belief in effectiveness and has been further supported by the investment made by various governments, the UK, and Sweden among the leaders.

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