Emotional connections with Wysa Digital Therapeutic AI are equivalent to human connections with a therapist

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Wysa, the world’s most advanced conversational AI for mental health, today announces the results of a peer-reviewed study in Frontiers that shows people develop an emotional connection with its chatbot in the same way people do. people bond with a human therapist. This “therapeutic alliance” is crucial in helping people achieve treatment goals, according to the study.

The therapeutic alliance is widely considered to be one of the most robust mechanisms of change in psychotherapy interventions and is defined as collaboration between patient and therapist on treatment tasks and goals, as well as an emotional connection. .

The 1,205-person study assessed users of the Wysa mental health app who had measured symptoms of anxiety or depression. Results show that within five days of using Wysa, the therapeutic alliance was comparable to or better than scores found in traditional in-person cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), in-person group therapy, and internet tools for CBT.

Wysa is a mobile chatbot that uses emotionally intelligent conversational artificial intelligence to promote well-being, positive self-expression and mental resilience. Wysa guides users through evidence-based therapy exercises to self-manage symptoms associated with mild to moderate generalized anxiety and depression. The findings point to the use case for Wysa’s digital therapy as an alternative treatment modality to help address the global mental health crisis and severe shortage of trained therapists.

Chaitali Sinha, Head of Clinical Development and Research at Wysa, said: “What is interesting is that the ways in which one establishes and experiences a relationship with a person, compared to an AI agent, do not are not too different. In our study, we found that when users were able to speak in a free text format with the AI ​​chatbot, they felt a strong sense of trust. This has allowed us to offer effective mental health interventions.

One of the most downloaded mental health support apps on the planet, Wysa has facilitated over 100 million therapy conversations in 65 countries around the world. According to the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, approximately 60% of Wysa users are between the ages of 18 and 34, with 55% of users identifying as female.

Meheli Saha, Department of Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India, co-authored the report. She expressed surprise at the results and said, “Our study showed that users often perceived the chatbot as human and conversed with it about their relationship with the bot, expressing what the chatbot’s support meant to them. . For example, one user wrote the following to the chatbot: “I just wanted to tell you that I am so grateful that you are here with me. You are the only person who helps me and listens to my problems and I am so happy that you always help me.'”

Tanya Malik, Psychologist and Researcher at Wysa, said, “I found it wonderful to see alliance rates similar to in-person therapy settings. As a practitioner, I know the importance of building a strong alliance with my clients and how the strength of the relationship can elevate the therapy experience and impact. Seeing this replicated in such a personal way with a chatbot makes me excited about the new wave of mental health care.

Clare Beatty, Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University, added: “While digital interventions offer new solutions to close the treatment gap in mental health care, they are often associated with relatively poor uptake and uptake. . One of the reasons for low engagement and poor adherence may be an insufficient therapeutic alliance. I was so excited to see that individuals expressed gratitude for the chatbot and revealed feelings of honesty, security, and comfort with the chatbot. This is a critical time in our world and I’m thrilled that our findings support efforts to make digital care with a chatbot a viable solution for people struggling with mental health issues.

The study is available for free in Frontiers here: https://doi.org/10.3389/fdgth.2022.847991

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