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Your AI Therapist Is Not Your Therapist: The Dangers of Relying on AI Chatbots for Mental Health

With electricity physical and financial barriers to accessing healthcarethat individuals with mental illnesses can turn to Artificial intelligence (AI) based chatbots for mental health relief or help. Although they will not be approved as medical devices by the US Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada, they could provide the inducement to make use of such chatbots 24/7 availability, personalized care and marketing of cognitive behavioral therapy.

However, users may overestimate the therapeutic advantages and underestimate the restrictions of the usage of such technologies. further deteriorate their mental health. Such a phenomenon may be classified as therapeutic misunderstanding where users may conclude that the aim of the chatbot is to offer them with real therapeutic care.

With AI chatbots, therapeutic misunderstandings can occur in 4 ways, through two important streams: the corporate's practices and the design of the AI ​​technology itself.

There are 4 ways during which therapeutic misunderstandings can arise through two important currents.
(Zoha Khawaja)

Corporate Practices: Meet your AI self-help expert

First, the incorrect marketing of mental health chatbots by corporations, labeling them as “Mental health support“Tools that “include”cognitive behavioral therapy“may be very misleading because it implies that such chatbots can perform psychotherapy.

Don't just do this Chatbots do not need the talents, training and experience of human therapistsbut relatively to mark them as able to being a “different way of treating“Mental illnesses suggest that such chatbots may be used as alternative routes to therapy.”

This sort of marketing tactic can greatly exploit user trust within the healthcare system, especially when marketed as “in.”close collaboration with therapists.” Such marketing tactics can entice users to achieve this Disclosure of very personal and personal health information without fully understanding who owns and has access to their data.

The second sort of therapeutic misunderstanding is when a user enters right into a digital therapeutic alliance with a chatbot. With a human therapist it is useful to form one strong therapeutic alliance during which each the patient and the therapist work together and agree on desired goals that may be achieved through tasks, and construct a bond based on trust and empathy.

Since a chatbot cannot form the identical therapeutic relationship that users can with a human therapist, a digital therapeutic alliance can form between a user and a user assumes an alliance with the chatboteven when the chatbot cannot actually create one.

Four examples of marketing mental health apps
Examples of showcasing mental health apps: (A) Screenshot from Woebot Health website. (B) Screenshot from Wysa website. (C) Advertisement for Anna from Happify Health. (D) Screenshot from the Happify Health website.
(Zoha Khawaja)

Great efforts have been made to realize user trust and strengthen the digital therapeutic alliance with chatbots, including giving chatbots humanistic qualities Resembling and mimicking conversations with real therapists and promoting them as such “anonymous” 24/7 companions can reproduce the points of the therapy.

Such an alliance may inadvertently lead users to expect the identical patient-provider confidentiality and privacy protections as they do from their healthcare providers. Unfortunately, The more deceptive the chatbot is, the more practical the digital therapy alliance is might be.

Technological design: Is your chatbot trained to show you how to?

The third therapeutic misunderstanding occurs when users have limited knowledge of possible biases within the AI's algorithm. Often marginalized individuals are excluded from the design and development phase of such technologies, which can lead to them receiving them biased and inappropriate answers.

If such chatbots are not recognizing dangerous behavior or provide culturally and linguistically relevant mental health resourcesthat might worsening the mental health of vulnerable populations who not only face stigma and discrimination, but additionally no access to care. A therapeutic misunderstanding occurs when users may expect the chatbot to profit them therapeutically, but they’re given harmful advice.

Finally, a therapeutic misunderstanding can arise when mental health chatbots are unable to advocate for and promote mental health relational autonomy, an idea that emphasizes that a person's autonomy is formed by his or her relationships and social context. It's that then Responsibility of the therapist to revive the patient's autonomy by supporting and motivating them to actively take part in therapy.

AI chatbots present a paradox during which they find themselves Available across the clock and promise to enhance self-sufficiency when dealing along with your own mental health. Not only can this result in extremely isolating and individualized help-seeking behavior, nevertheless it also creates a therapeutic misunderstanding whereby individuals consider that they’re independently taking a positive step toward improving their mental health.

A false sense of well-being is created wherever an individual is feeling social and cultural context and the inaccessibility of care will not be considered aspects contributing to their mental health. This false expectation is further reinforced when chatbots are falsely advertised as “Relational agents” who can “establish a bond with people…comparable to that achieved by human therapists.”

Measures to avoid the chance of therapeutic misjudgments

Not all hope is lost with such chatbots as some proactive measures may be taken Reduce the likelihood of therapeutic misunderstandings.

Through honest marketing and regular reminders, users may be made aware of the chatbot's limited therapeutic options and encouraged to hunt down more traditional types of therapy. In fact, a therapist ought to be made available to those that want to opt out of using such chatbots. Users would also profit from transparency about how their information is collected, stored and used.

Active patient involvement through the design and development phase of such chatbots also needs to be considered, in addition to collaboration with multiple experts on ethical guidelines that may govern and regulate such technologies to make sure higher protection for users.


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