Could AI therapy help those unable to reach out?


New research from Murdoch University has revealed the potential of AI psychotherapy in providing treatment to people without access to traditional services.

With staggering statistics about the mental health struggles facing Australians, there has been an increasing demand for access to psychological care. 

For many, there are barriers to accessing these services, including cost, geographical location, waiting lists and social stigma.  

FIFO workers are high on this list, with around 1/3 of workers in the industry reporting psychological distress - often while in remote locations. 

In Dr Beena Kishore’s research, AI psychotherapy software was put to the test, responding to various scenarios patients might face – including depressive thoughts, marriage conflicts and anxiety.  

A focus group of participants found that the system’s generated responses were helpful and appropriate in these scenarios.  

Dr Kishore said that while the software wouldn’t be a complete replacement for human-to-human therapy, it could make a huge impact to those who were either reluctant to or unable to seek traditional therapy.  

I definitely think this has the potential to help – especially after COVID – we had that experience, and there are still a lot of things online now,” Dr Kishore said.  

The proposed program uses an Affect Based Language Generation system, which adds a layer of security and accountability. 

Where machine-learning AI allows the machine to learn based on data and algorithms, this software requires human interaction, with language and parameters being programmed and regulated by experts.  

“If implementing AI software medically, you have to be careful with your words,” Dr Kishore said.  

“The rules are manually created – so you need that human expertise.”  

Dr Kishore’s proposed automated psychotherapeutic system would improve the lives of people who, due to various barriers, are not receiving psychological treatment. 

Header image by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash.

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Posted on:

25 Mar 2024

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