Chatbots are generally used for customer support or as personal assistants. However, their use in healthcare is an emerging phenomenon. Through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots can sound more life-like and engaging. Woebot is a chatbot designed to help you navigate complex mental health issues through natural conversation.
While the severity of every condition varies, the need for affordable and easily accessible mental health services still exists. Woebot may not be an alternative to traditional therapy, but it promises to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
What Is an NLP Chatbot?
Natural language processing, or NLP, is a branch of AI that enables computers to understand and respond to texts or spoken words like humans. NLP uses various technologies such as machine learning, statistics, and deep learning models to decipher the intent behind a particular text.
NLP breaks every sentence by tone, structure, expression, and several other factors to identify its intent. NLP chatbots try to understand the true meaning behind conversations and offer appropriate responses. As it learns your flow of conversation, an NLP chatbot can sound more natural than ordinary query bots on a website.
How Woebot Works
Woebot is a mental health app that uses AI to help you deal with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. According to the NIMH, nearly one in five US adults live with some form of mental illness. This app aims to help people deal with some of those feelings using an NLP chatbot called Woebot.
Woebot is the closest experience to a fully automated therapist. It helps you identify and take action against emotional roadblocks, cognitive distortions, and other limiting beliefs. The app also has a gratitude journal and a mood tracker.
When signing up, you can choose a preferred time for Woebot to check in with you. Once logged in, you can begin interacting with the bot directly. The chatbot occupies most of the dashboard area. You can access additional features of Woebot through the Topics, Tools, and Journal tabs.
Getting to Know Woebot’s NLP Chatbot
The chatbot is quite intuitive. At first, it gives you a tour of the app followed by an initial check-in. That helps gain an overview of your present mental health. The chatbot then analyzes your symptoms and suggests some actions. For most questions, you can only select from pre-set responses, which minimize error statements and improve the accuracy of the bot.
However, when you log in for a session, you can type custom responses about your day or any other issues. Woebot processes those responses to figure out the problem you’re dealing with. This combination of pre-set and custom responses makes Woebot a highly engaging chatbot.
For instance, before any exercises, it encourages you to do a relaxation exercise. You can watch a YouTube video or have the chatbot talk you through it. It uses emojis, gifs, and positive validations to make the conversations fun. If you do not want to engage in a session, you can always head over to the Tools tab and practice any of the exercises.
Meanwhile, the Topics tab has content on a wide range of mental health topics. Each topic has a chain of subtopics to choose from. Under the topic “Managing Emotions”, you can start a session on anxiety, loneliness, self-esteem, etc. Each session is uniquely designed. The chatbot does not directly jump into advice or exercises.
For example, in the self-esteem session, Woebot starts off by telling a relatable story that ties to the concept of self-esteem. Thereby, every interaction feels new and unique.
The Journal tab lets you track your daily mood and create a gratitude journal. Collectively, all these tools can provide comprehensive mental health stats.
Another great feature in the app is S.O.S. This is an emergency crisis button that can get you immediate professional help. It is accessible in the Tools tab. When you press this button, it sends an S.O.S. text. Woebot instantly checks up to confirm whether you or someone you know is in a crisis situation and connects you with external resources.
Woebot Is Backed by Science
Plenty of mental health apps use CBT as their primary approach. Woebot uses a combination of three clinically tested therapies – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). The questions and responses in the app are designed to incorporate techniques and patterns of these psychological therapies.
The app’s AI not only helps make conversations sound more natural but it also learns more about you with each interaction. A 2021 study published in JMIR showed that within five days of app usage, Woebot formed a bond with its users.
Another JMIR study found that Woebot successfully helped reduce depression symptoms in college students when used over a period of two weeks. While the success of this study depended on subjective experiences, the chatbot acted as an engaging mode of delivering CBT.
During the surge of the COVID-19, substance abuse was a major problem due to pandemic-related stress. A 2021 study available on ScienceDirect found that Woebot significantly reduced substance abuse occasions more than the control group. Therefore, this led to the betterment of the participants’ overall mental health.
Is Woebot Safe?
Some mental health apps don’t keep data safe. When you attend traditional therapy, any information you share remains confidential under the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement. However, this confidentiality may not apply to mental health apps. Therefore, knowing what data is being collected and how it’s processed is crucial.
Why You Should Consider Trying Woebot
There are several reasons to consider Woebot. While the chatbot does not replace traditional therapy by any means, it is a supplementary tool that can may improve mental health with regular use. Often, traditional therapy can be expensive and inaccessible, while Woebot is completely free. It is a unique automated telehealth service that should only get better with technological advancements.
Regular check-ins, exercises, and topic-specific sessions on Woebot may help ease a range of mental health conditions. Therefore, Woebot can be a great precursor or even a supplementary tool to traditional therapy.