Would you open up to a chatbot therapist?

chatbot therapist
chatbot therapist

Would you share your deepest anxiety with Alexa? Or maybe ask Siri for some emotional support after a particularly stressful day?

We are increasingly turning to chatbots on smart speakers or websites and apps to answer questions.

And as these systems, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) software, become ever more sophisticated, they are starting to provide pretty decent, detailed answers.

But will such chatbots ever be human-like enough to become effective therapists?

Computer programmer Eugenia Kuyda is the founder of Replika, a US chatbot app that says it offers users an « AI companion who cares, always here to listen and talk, always on your side ».

Launched in 2017, it now has more than two million active users. Each has a chatbot or « replika » unique to them, as the AI learns from their conversations. Users can also design their own cartoon avatar for their chatbot.

Ms Kuyda says that people using the app range from autistic children who turn to it as a way to « warm up before human interactions », to adults who are simply lonely and need a friend.

Others are said to use Replika to practise for job interviews, to talk about politics, or even as a marriage counsellor.

And while the app is designed primarily to be a friend or companion, it also claims it can help benefit your mental health, such as by enabling users to « build better habits and reduce anxiety ».