We do know that talking seems to help — especially under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional. But therapy is expensive, inconvenient, and often hard to approach. A recent estimate suggests that of the roughly one in five Americans who have a mental illness, close to two-thirds have gone at least a year without treatment.
Several Silicon Valley-style approaches to the problem have emerged: There are apps that replace the traditional psychiatry office with texting, and chat rooms where you can discuss your problems anonymously online.
The newest of these tech-based treatments is Woebot, an artificially intelligent chatbot (and recently launched app) that uses the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT — one of the most heavily researched clinical approaches to treating depression.
I spent two weeks using the tool. Here's how it went.
The first message appeared around 6 p.m., while I was on the bus. I cupped a hand around my phone and stole a furtive glance at the gray bubble on the screen.
Woebot, which is designed to help people cope with feelings of depression and anxiety, launched as a stand-alone iOS app earlier this month.
Trying it out was my latest jaunt into the new and mostly uncharted territory of digital mental-health care.
Alison Darcy, a clinical psychologist at Stanford University, created Woebot based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, which encourages people to examine how they react to challenging situations.
Woebot isn't a replacement for an in-person therapist, Darcy says, nor will it help you find one.
Instead, the tool is part of a widening array of approaches to mental health. It's fundamentally different from any other form of therapy.
In one of my first interactions with Woebot, I told it about a time I had felt nervous about not being good or smart enough.
Woebot pointed out that I was engaging in a common practice called distorted thinking.
Then it had me re-write the thought in terms that would better reflect reality. In reality, I felt "not good enough" because I was anxious about a presentation I was giving the next day.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider