Overcoming the limitations of AI
So, how do we get around some of the limitations of AI identified above?
AI models must be trained with high-quality, unbiased data. “The development of robust predictive models starts with high-quality, reliable, and sufficiently representative data that capture both the variability, complexity, and specificity of the targeted phenomena” (Koutsouleris et al., 2022, p. 831).
Adequate data privacy and security measures
Privacy is paramount. Data must be secure against breaches and unauthorized access.
Consent and transparency
Users must be made aware of how and by whom their data will be stored, used, and accessed. Therefore, users must be helped to fully understand the implications of AI data processing.
Ensuring AI is fair and unbiased
Procedures and controls must be put in place to ensure that AI tools do not learn bias by adopting discriminatory practices or providing unequal treatment.
Accountability and liability
Clear guidelines are required for who is held accountable for negative outcomes. Is it the AI developer, therapists using the tools, or the practice owner?
AI recommendations are just that. We should use them to support rather than replace human judgment and decision-making.
If therapists and mental health practitioners use AI tools, they must monitor how they are working and the advice and guidance they offer.
Can AI Therapists Replace Real Therapists?
Based on the benefits and challenges we’ve seen for AI in mental health care, artificially intelligent therapists seem unlikely to replace human therapists — at least for now (Minerva & Giubilini, 2023).
And yet, AI therapist tools and software can be valuable for supporting and augmenting care provided to clients, potentially improving the quality of and access to mental health services (Minerva & Giubilini, 2023).
For the moment at least, the role of AI in therapy is best seen as complementary, providing additional resources and support while leaving the core therapeutic relationship and decision-making to human professionals (Koutsouleris et al., 2022).
What Does the Future Hold for AI Therapy?
In their article “Is AI the Future of Mental Healthcare?” researchers Francesca Minerva and Alberto Giubilini (2023) identify several key points about the future of AI in mental health care.
- Hybrid approach
The future of mental health care will likely involve a hybrid approach, combining the strengths of AI and human therapists.
- Cost-effectiveness and accessibility
Mental health care will, as a result of AI, become more cost effective and reduce skilled staff shortages, making it more accessible globally and potentially improving care for a greater number of people.
- Dehumanization concerns
Empathy and trust, core aspects of health care provision, might be at risk of being lost with the use of AI.
- Potential benefits in psychiatry
Advances in AI in psychiatry might yield positive results, potentially challenging the traditional view of psychiatry as grounded in human connection.
- AI in diagnosing mental illness
We will likely see further improvements in diagnosing mental illnesses by analyzing large amounts of diverse data from various sources like medical records, social media, and wearable devices.
- AI for specific patient groups
AI will continue to be particularly useful for individuals who find human interaction challenging or are concerned about stigma, such as those with depression or autism.
Beyond that, the direction and capacity of AI to support mental health remain challenging to predict and easy to underestimate.
AI Apps for Supporting Mental Wellbeing
While AI is not a replacement for therapists, several AI apps and tools provide a reasonable degree of therapeutic support.
Here are several of our favorites:
Wysa: Mental Health Support
This AI-supported chatbot helps those struggling with anxiety, depression, and stress.
This clinically validated tool provides immediate support and longer-term coaching to provide a safe place to talk through worries and stressors.
Happify: For Stress and Worry
This popular app uses AI to support the user and offers science-based games and activities to help reduce stress and maintain overall wellbeing.
The app uses proven techniques taken from positive psychology, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and mindfulness.
Rootd: Panic Attack Relief
This is a valuable tool for learning where panic comes from and helping manage and overcome panic attacks.
At the press of a button, the app helps the user struggling with a panic attack, either by facing panic head on or finding a place of comfort.
Sanvello: Anxiety & Depression
This app provides support for users’ mental health, including self-care, peer support, coaching, and therapy.
The app is based on techniques taken from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness and is tailored to the needs of the individual user.
A Take-Home Message
We are all seeing AI’s potential to transform our world experience, including digital art, journalism, online shopping, driving, and how we interact with our technology.
Therefore, it is no surprise that AI is increasingly used in health care, supporting mental and physical health practitioners in diagnosing patients and finding the best treatments (Minerva & Giubilini, 2023).
Advanced technologies like large language models, made popular by ChatGPT’s release in 2022, are being explored for their potential in mental health care to generate sophisticated responses and interactions, supporting the mental health of those in need.
AI provides cost-effective support for clients in an overwhelmed mental health system, bridging the gap where traditional services struggle to meet the rising demand for treatment.
Although current advances in tools and technology aren’t yet ready to replace human mental health professionals, they can play a crucial role in enhancing and supplementing the care given to clients, potentially improving the standard and accessibility of mental health services (Minerva & Giubilini, 2023).
As we witness AI’s growing role in mental health care, it’s an ideal time for counselors and coaches to explore AI tools. Such innovations can enrich their practice, offering fresh approaches to support clients more effectively in today’s digital world.
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