We are past saying the world is changing because it has. Specifically, I’m talking about the transition from in-person to virtual. Some of the transitions will become optional or the new norm. Something that is getting more traction in the coming years is using Artificial Intelligence for counseling. This isn’t shocking because technology is being used to replace as many job fields as it can, but how useful can AI be in such an intimate field? Personally, I opted out of the Zoom calls with my counselor when the pandemic started because virtual calls are awkward and uncomfortable. I felt the meetings would be ineffective for those very reasons. A recent article from Psychology Today, “Is Artificial Intelligence the Future of Mental Health,” got me thinking about this topic.
There are three main things I took away from the article. One, the session can be compared to using chat assistance like the ones from Uber or Amazon. Obviously, there are automated responses—it’s a robot—but these responses are designed to teach users therapeutic skills. In addition, the chatbot can text or email daily reminders, mood check-ins, encourage mediation, and reassess thoughts. All this just sounds like an app telling me what to do (two thumbs down). Two, chatbots give access to mental health for those who can’t access it. I get the thought process. Just because we can’t access people, or the proper techniques, doesn’t mean people can go on about their day without them. So, yes this has its advantages for specific situations. Three, ethical concerns that come along with spilling a lot of personal information to a chatbot are beyond valid. Concerns include data protection, safety of users, and the long-term effects of human-computer interactions. If your therapy session can’t be safe, then how can you be open?
DePaul psychology graduate, Micaela Johnson, isn’t a fan of this new way of therapy but can understand the benefits. “In a normal non-COVID world I personally don’t like AI therapy. I feel weird talking to someone about my personal issues through a screen. But this could work now because that’s the best way for therapy.”
I’ll say it a million times, mental health is just as important as physical health and requires just as much effort, but virtual trainers are different from AI therapists. I think this is great for people who travel a lot or the unfortunate event that we have a virus that is spread through direct contact. But it shouldn’t be a replacement. I say this because this is a personal field that requires human abilities like actual feelings. In my opinion, there’s no doubt that companies will opt for AI over a real person. Look at how companies transitioned from real people to automated calls for financial and customer service work.
This change may become more mainstream soon than later. May as well prepare yourself now.
By Triniti Maye, Junior, Saint Xavier University