Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more prevalent in our everyday life and for those who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems, this could be particularly troubling. However, one emerging solution is AI Counseling.
As a field of study within behavioral science, the goal of AI counseling is to match an individual struggling with psychological issues with an algorithm-enabled mental wellness assistant that can help guide them towards therapy or alternative methods.
What Is AI Counseling
A recent study found that financing for digital mental health climbed from $1,136 million annually to $1,974 million globally in 2020, and that in March 2021, mental health received an all-time high number of media mentions.
AI counseling is considered to be a general term that involves using artificial intelligence and machine learning through digital platforms and devices to provide individuals with mental health assistance. There are many options for those who might consider this radical new idea.
Some companies offer AI-supported apps, which can help the user build healthier habits for dealing with anxiety, happiness and depression; other companies utilize servers or websites to create individualized support plans or mental health interventions by pairing one’s data with that of their peers based on similar behaviors.
Benefits Of AI Counseling
Mental health professionals are seeing an increase in mental health issues in youth. Anxiety disorders are the most common, followed by depression and other mood disorders. Many young people do not have access to mental health services, which can help them manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
1. Real-Time Tracking
One of the main causes of illness and mortality, mental health issues are predicted to cost the global economy $16 trillion by 2030. The process of AI counseling provides real-time tracking, which allows people to see exactly where they stand with their symptoms and make adjustments as needed.
At the same time, the algorithm is constantly learning from past interactions that have been logged and adjusting its intervention to take these changes into account.
One of the most cost-effective benefits of machine learning is how versatile it can be. There are apps that track progress through a series of questions rather than paying for an in-person therapist; there are other outlets for resources for those in need.
3. Targeted Interventions
There are professionals around the globe who must accommodate a wide range of issues and symptoms using their time and resources. By using AI to deliver targeted interventions, we can provide the most tailored solutions for those in need with minimal interference in the process.
4. Real-Time Developments
As new developments occur, it can be problematic to see how this will impact those with mental health concerns. The benefits of AI counseling allow individuals to see what is being done around them as well as continuously adjust their interventions as needed through ongoing interaction with different aspects of the platform.
As an added benefit, there is no cost associated with this constant feedback loop!
5. Faster Delivery
Nowadays, we are all familiar with the idea that technology can deliver services faster than any human ever could. AI is able to analyze tens of thousands of data points with lightning speed and deliver results in real-time – something that would take a human therapist days to complete. This is particularly important for those who might be at risk of self-harm or suicide.
6. Auto-Adjustment Capabilities
Another benefit of AI counseling is the ability to automate certain aspects such as questionnaires and other repetitive tasks, leading to more efficiency on the part of the individual receiving care and allowing them to focus on more pressing matters at hand. In a sense, this could be viewed as prioritizing immediate intervention.
7. Self-Help Assistance And Support
Many people with anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns report feeling most comfortable seeking help from other peers with similar experiences. The ability to have AI assist them in building healthier habits and support one another can make a huge difference in recovery time.
Thanks to the internet’s ability to connect us all, this is something that is possible for more people than ever before!
8. Increased Awareness Of Self-Examination And Self-Diagnosis
People without mental illness may struggle with self-assessment of mood or behavior when interacting with others, including those they are romantically involved with (e.g. is my partner depressed). The benefits of AI counseling encourage an increased level of awareness and a greater ability to self-assess.
Risks Of AI Counseling
Constructive therapy and mental health counseling are both treatment techniques that work to help patients improve their mental health. Clinical psychologist often say these treatment techniques work in conjunction with one another to provide the best possible care for their patients.
1. Inaccurate Diagnosis
AI assists in making an accurate diagnosis based on the symptoms and criteria outlined, but the results are only as good as the data that goes in. Thus, if individuals are unwilling to share enough information with their AI counselor, this can pose a problem.
This is why it is important to understand how your data is being used and make absolutely sure you understand what information is being shared before engaging with any service or product.
2. Lack Of Legal Protection
There are a handful of lawsuits currently pending against Google regarding its operation of AI-driven experiments for its DeepMind subsidiary, which could have far-reaching implications for AI counseling services.
Although the companies involved in these particular lawsuits have said that the data does not impact the individual’s relationship with their AI counselor, it might make sense to be a little more cautious and understand how your data is being used before engaging.
3. Unlimited Data Collection
As AI Counseling becomes more prevalent, more data on individuals will be gathered – even private information such as medical records. This could result in an increased risk of identity theft or other unwanted intrusions into one’s life.
While it is likely that safeguards will be put in place to protect this information, it is essential to be aware of what information can affect your privacy before sharing any personal details.
4. Risk Of Malware
On the other hand, in 2019, only about 40% of US adults with mental illness received treatment. Online counseling services do not currently have any kind of firewall or security measures in place.
While this is likely to change in the future, it is a risk that needs to be considered. There are also some concerns regarding how the data will be stored and housed, which could pose another issue – especially if your data is collected by a third-party company like Google!
5. Trust Issues
As AI continues to improve, there is no reason to think that it will automatically make accurate assessments. In fact, there can be evidence to suggest it makes potentially harmful predictions – one example being GPT detection and prediction for suicide risk in the UK’s NHS National Services Scotland 2017 Mental Health Strategy.
In this instance, the AI system misclassified people who had a history of suicidal thoughts without any human involvement. Thus, it may not be wise to rely on AI as the sole source of support for those with mental health concerns.
6. Uncomfortable Difference In Skill Level
While AI might be very good at diagnosing mental illnesses, advanced counseling requires a completely different skill set. For example, an AI counselor can help you assess your risk of suicide by conducting a questionnaire and generating a graph based on the results – but they do not have the ability to alter your behaviors.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, however! Many people would rather focus on improving their behaviors than altering the way they think – and this is what AI counseling can do!
7. Lack Of Advanced Communication Skills
There are many situations that require advanced communication skills – particularly when dealing with those who have autism or other disabilities. For example, a person with autism might find it difficult to express themselves and prove their points to another person, especially if they have problems processing information or doing math.
AI counselors can be trained to deal with these kinds of issues and understand nuances in speech or body language.
8. Confusion Between AI And Human Counseling
Many people are uncertain about where exactly AI counseling falls on the spectrum versus human counseling. Some would prefer to engage with human counseling – and that is entirely their choice. However, the fact remains that AI has some very big advantages over human counselors.
For example, AI is able to complete calculations in greater speed and accuracy than a human counselor; it also has a program running on its “brains” rather than just off of memory and intuition.
Ways To Help Make AI Counseling Better
The mental health tracker, which is intended to assist businesses prevent employee burnout, purportedly reduces the length and volume of sick days by up to 31%. Natural language processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence that deals with the interaction between computers and human (natural) languages.
NLP techniques are used to process and analyze large amounts of unstructured data (text, audio, and video), in order to extract meaning from it and to enable computers to understand and respond to human queries in a natural way.
NLP has been found to be effective in treating mental disorders conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy sessions will help you change your thinking and improve your outlook on life.
1. Connect With Someone In Direct Contact With AI Counselors
It can be difficult for us to appreciate how another person’s experience might differ from ours or how it is that their perspective might change depending on interactions with an AI program over time.
While there is no need to create an immediate crisis, it can be helpful to find people who have used similar services and ask questions if you are concerned about future concerns or reactions in the future.
2. Be Aware Of The Human Element
Although there is some evidence to suggest that AI counselors can offer truly personalized care, it is important to be aware that these programs are not designed to replace human interaction and support.
Rather, they are meant to help facilitate a deeper level of understanding generated by real-time interaction between individuals and their counselors as they work together in real time.
3. There Will Always Be An Element Of Trust Involved
While most mental health care services take a “trust but verify” approach, the depths of the trust required will likely vary based on the individual and their situation. Therefore, it is important to understand that AI is only as accurate as the information submitted and copied to the counselor and the data used.
4. Insist On Privacy
It is essential to use caution when engaging with or sharing any private information with anyone. Treating this information like gold could result in an unintended consequence that could impact your life or the lives of those you care about or are interested in engaging with this type of service.
Privacy can be protected by taking simple precautions and using passwords, changing your passwords often and using strong encryption protocols (the more secure it is, the more difficult it will be for hackers to access your information).
5. Think About Potential Short-Term And Long-Term Risks
It is important to be aware that there can be risks involved in utilizing AI services. The risk of an unintended consequence could result in an increased risk of harm or damage.
There is also the potential for the AI itself to have unintended consequences, and experiencing these risks without understanding them could leave you frustrated and with more questions than answers.
6. Use Reliable Sources When Reading News Around AI Counseling Services
It can be tempting to dive into the latest news about AI considering how this technology has grown so significantly in recent years – especially when it comes to marketing both in terms of potential benefits as well as any potential risks involved.
However, it is important to be aware of what you are reading and keep an open mind as there are often inaccuracies associated with these stories – many of which take on a sensationalized feel when they are presented as news.
7. Use Trust But Verify Approach
It can be difficult to determine the level of trust required from an AI counselor at first, but if you experience anxiety or concerns about interacting with AI counselors, it can provide some guidance on how to use other human resources for support such as a health provider or mental health professional.
AI has a bright future. With the implementation of AI, many people are able to get the help and support that they need in order to live a happier, healthier life.
In fact, because of how much people have come to rely on this technology, more companies are looking at ways to implement it into their own business. The future of counseling is set to change technology as we know it.