You might be comfortable telling a chatbot that you need help logging in to your online banking account. Or you might ask it about getting a refund for an order you made.
But would you talk to a chatbot about your deepest fears and desires? Would you tell a clever piece of software that you're feeling more anxious than usual? Would you be willing to take advice from an AI personality?
Some people are certainly happy to do so - and it's a trend that's on the rise.
Mental health chatbots are a new and innovative way to explore your functional wellbeing, and the use of these services is becoming more and more popular.
They offer a convenient and discreet way to get help with your mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, stress, and addiction.
There are quite a few different mental healthcare chatbot providers available, so it can be hard to decide which one you should use. Let's take a look at what's out there and what they can do for you.
Mental health chatbots are a type of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that are designed to help you with your mental health.
They're online services that you can access through websites or mobile apps, usually for a small subscription fee. You type your questions and comments into a text box (like you would in any messaging app) and the 'bot' responds to you almost immediately.
They do a similar job to a therapist or coach, but they're not immediately operated by humans. While the advice they give is usually correct and backed by science, it'll be a computer talking back to you (usually in the form of a friendly character to make it easier to connect with).
Today's mental health chatbots can provide support and advice, track your responses over time, and offer coping strategies for when you're feeling down. They can also connect you with mental health resources, such as hotlines and support groups.
Mental health chatbots can help with a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, stress, and addiction. If you're struggling with any of these issues, a mental health chatbot could be a helpful tool for you.
As well as helping diagnose and prevent specific ailments, behaviors or conditions, they also promote desirable positive qualities, too. So they can help you develop emotional wellbeing, coping strategies in the face of stressful situations, or the discipline to overcome procrastination. In this way, they can act as a coach, encouraging you to step outside your comfort zone or build helpful habits over time. (This is the focus of our app, Fingerprint for Success - there's more about us below.)
Making use of a mental health chatbot isn't the same as talking to another human face-to-face. This has upsides and downsides.
On one hand, it can seem impersonal - at least in theory. You don't get the advantage of being able to read the other person's body language (and the chatbot can't read yours). Knowing that someone really cares about you isn't quite possible with a bot, unless you're willing to suspend your disbelief and play along.
(Maybe one day a bot will be able to scan your body language through your webcam - a cool idea for some people, but an intrusive one for others.)
On the other hand, the AI and data-crunching capabilities behind many of today's chatbots are really impressive, and can talk to you in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. They're backed by deep scientific research and are almost always developed in conjunction with qualified researchers and practitioners from various psychological science disciplines. The information you'll be given will combine medical expertise, technological wizardry, and easy-to-understand presentation. So while you might not gain the deepest insights into your psyche that a qualified therapist might uncover with custom questioning, these apps are sure to give you at least some nuggets of wisdom that can make a really positive difference in your life.
What's interesting is that many people feel much more comfortable speaking about their worries and concerns to a bot, perhaps because they feel it's not as judgemental as a human being.
Most of the chatbots below aren't designed to be used in an emergency. If you're dealing with symptoms of mental illness or considering self-harm of any sort, these won't be appropriate for your needs. In fact, if you do display any tendencies toward such feelings, the chatbots might refer you away from themselves, towards appropriate resources, like mental health services, government healthcare providers, or registered support organizations.
As an example, if you're generally feeling more sad or apathetic than usual and you suspect it might be depression, a chatbot could be a good starting point to identify and start to deal with the problem. But if you're currently going through a serious depressive episode and you need immediate help, you should seek advice from a mental health professional straight away, instead of using an app.
There are many different mental health bots out there, so it can be hard to choose which one is right for you. To help you make a decision, we've compiled a list of the best mental health chatbots out there:
Fingerprint for Success is a coaching and development program that helps people understand their motivations and work styles, build self-esteem and confidence, and achieve their goals.
Coach Marlee is Fingerprint for Success's AI chatbot that coaches participants through various programs. It personalizes each program based on the participant's
Marlee is a fun, encouraging personality that brings out your best, checking in with you regularly as you go through the programs and helping you understand your own development in unique ways you might not have encountered before. The questions Marlee asks might be deeper than you expect, challenging you to reflect on yourself and step out of your comfort zone - one of the best ways to grow.
Marlee's expertise can be utilized one-on-one for individuals and also scaled out to entire organizations.
Fingerprint for Success is not a therapeutic app.
The coaching it excels in involves developing people and helping them achieve goals, which can include building resilience and the capability to manage their emotions - something really important for maintaining positive mental health.
This means that if you're targeting a specific mental health ailment or illness, Fingerprint for Success / Coach Marlee won't be the best immediate solution. But if you're looking to go from good to great and elevate your mental performance in all aspects of life, it could be a fantastic fit for you.
Coach Marlee delivers their coaching via text-based chat, so it appeals to people who naturally like reading and understanding things visually, rather than those that like hearing or touching/experiencing. (Your own learning style traits are uncovered during a Fingerprint for Success assessment.)
Woebot is a chatbot that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to help people manage their mental health. It's designed to be used every day, for a few minutes at a time, and specifically targets conditions like depression and anxiety.
Woebot is based on the premise that talking to somebody about how you're feeling - even if that somebody isn't human - can help you understand and manage your emotions better. Each day Woebot starts by asking how you're feeling, and then it will give you activities or challenges to do; mostly CBT-based exercises around specific topics like anxiety, depression, relationships, or sleep.
You can also ask Woebot questions about anything that's troubling you; it'll reply with helpful information and advice.
Woebot is best for people who want to learn more about CBT techniques and how they can be used to manage mental health issues. Studies have shown promising results so far for users (although these studies were funded by Woebot's creators).
If you're looking for an AI bot that can provide immediate help or support in a crisis, like most chatbots, Woebot is not really the right fit. But if you want a chatbot that will teach you how to manage your emotions better over time, Woebot could be perfect for you.
Wysa is another mental health chatbot that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to help users manage their mental health.
Wysa is described as "an AI chatbot that makes you feel heard." Its self-help tools help you reframe your issues and see them in a different light. It's designed to be a "non-judgemental safe space" where you can check in 24/7 with whatever concerns you want to share. Wysa is outspoken about its privacy and security, reassuring users that their conversations are 100% private and won't be seen by anyone other than the bot.
As well as the actual chatbot, Wysa membership also provides access to a content library of educational self-care material. Covering issues like relationships, trauma, loneliness and others, it helps you go deeper into the topics that matter to you, where you learn about them in a general sense so you can apply the knowledge to your own situation. Finally, the app lets you interact with qualified, professional therapists too, with which you can exchange messages and have regular live text chats. (These extras are included in a paid premium subscription.)
It's available for individuals to download and use, and the company also offers a business solution for employers, with some extra features for teams. It will look for signs of crisis or people who require extra support, and redirect them to resources like your EAP, behavioral health provider, or even a crisis helpline.
Wysa's 3 million users and positive app store rating mean it's been well-received by businesses and individuals; it's one of the most popular mental health chatbots out there.
Youper is a mental health chatbot app that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Positive Psychology techniques to help users manage their mental health. Youper is one of the market leaders in 'digital therapeutics', helping users deal with anxiety and depression through smart AI and research-backed interventions.
Youper prodives three main services:
Youper proudly advertises its clinical effectiveness, having been founded by doctors and therapists working alongside AI researchers.
It's another app that combines self-assessments and chatbots with a platform for talking to licensed professionals. This is a nice way to cover all bases and make sure the user gets a wide range of help. It also measures results and success over time, so it rewards those who stick with it and are invested in their results within the program.
The options we've listed above are some of the most popular chatbots out there for mental health support. It's an evolving landscape, and as AI tech becomes more and more sophisticated, we're probably going to see even more of them in the near future.
There are other options available to those above, but in researching this article, we found that there weren't too many trustworthy choices. Some of the apps we found out there make bold claims about their results but haven't been independently verified with proper research. Others showed promising testimonials in their marketing material, but when you look at their reviews on public app stores, users don't feel the same way.
Some are made by app developers serving demand with bots that only have basic functionality; they don't actually have much 'artificial intelligence' but simply route users towards different resources (like a customer service agent sending you to different departments). These are ones to be wary of, because their creators may be experts in AI and app development, but don't have the medical or psychotherapy credentials to back up the advice that they give.
Some of the apps we've mentioned combine AI chatbots with the option to talk to healthcare professionals or therapists. This is a nice option to have, and can potentially provide a more in-depth experience, although it can certainly incur additional costs.
Some apps focus solely on the 'live chat with a therapist' experience. While they can be expensive, many of them can be included in insurance plans or offered as part of an employee benefits program through your workplace.
Some of the human-based therapeutic mental health apps you might be interested in are:
Talkspace is a super popular online therapy provider. It connects users with a network of licensed therapy providers, each with a different specialism. It also has the option of specialized therapy services for couples or teens. Talkspace claims that 59% of users experience 'clinically significant change' within 3 months of starting their program.
Ginger offers text- and video-based psychiatry sessions with evening and weekend availability. It focuses on behavioral health coaching, therapy, and psychiatry, and also has a content library of self-help material. Ginger is available for organizations, individual members, and healthcare providers.
This one's a bit different. 7 Cups of Tea is a mental health app that lets members connect with over 300,000 trained and certified 'listeners' - it's all about being heard. Listeners have specialties including addiction, grief, anger management, depression, anxiety, impulse control, eating disorders, and more. As a free service, it's a great offering for those wanting to talk about their issues to a sympathetic ear and get some really valuable advice. There's also a paid part of the service that connects you to a licensed therapist to explore your concerns further.
Now that you know more about mental health chatbots, and which ones are the best, you might be wondering if you need one.
Mental health chatbots can be a great way to get support and advice right when you need it, without having to see a therapist or counselor in person. They can also be a great way to supplement your existing mental health treatment plan.
If you're not sure if a mental health chatbot is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a mental health chatbot could be a great option for you. Commitment is usually fairly minimal, with free trials and low monthly subscription plans as standard, so why not give a few apps a try and see what works best?
Sign up for your free account today to see how powerful and rewarding this awesome technology can be.
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