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 form an emotional connection with its chatbot, much like people connect with a human therapist. This “therapeutic alliance” is critical to helping people meet treatment goals, the study found.
Widely recognized as one of the most robust mechanisms of change in psychotherapeutic interventions, the therapeutic alliance is defined as the collaboration between patient and therapist in the tasks and goals of treatment, and as an emotional bond.
The 1,205-person study evaluated users of the Wysa mental health app who had measured symptoms of anxiety or depression. The results show that within five days of using Wysa, the therapeutic alliance was comparable to or better than the values found in traditional personal cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), personal group therapy and internet-based tools for CBT.
Wysa is a mobile chatbot that uses emotionally intelligent conversational AI 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. Results demonstrate the use case for delivering Wysa’s digital therapeutics as an alternative treatment modality to address the global mental health crisis and severe shortage of skilled therapists.
Wysa’s Head of Clinical Development and Research, Chaitali Sinha, said: “What is interesting is that the way you create and experience a relationship with a person is not all that different compared to an AI agent. In our study, we found that users who were able to speak to the AI conversation agent in a free-text format experienced a strong sense of a trusting relationship. This enabled us to provide effective mental health interventions.”
As one of the world’s most downloaded mental health support apps, Wysa has powered over 100 million therapeutic 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 women.
Meheli Saha, Department of Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India, co-authored the report. Expressing her surprise at the results, she said, “Our study showed that users often perceived the chatbot as humans and engaged in conversation with it about their relationship with the bot and expressing what it meant to them to have the chatbot’s support. For example, one user wrote the following to the chatbot: “I just wanted to say that I’m so grateful to have you here with me. You are the only person that 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 thought it was wonderful to see similar alliance rates as in personal therapeutic situations. As a practitioner, I know the importance of building a strong alliance with my clients and how the strength of the relationship can enhance the experience and impact of therapy. When I see this replicated in such a personal way with a conversational agent, I get excited about the new wave in mental health care.”
Clare Beatty, Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University, added: “While digital interventions offer novel solutions to address the mental health care treatment gap, they are often associated with relatively poor uptake and adherence. One reason for a lack of commitment and adherence to therapy can be an inadequate therapeutic alliance. I was so excited to find individuals expressing their gratitude for the chatbot and revealing feelings of honesty, safety and comfort with the chatbot. This is a critical time in our world and I am pleased 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 freely available on Frontiers here: https://doi.org/10.3389/fdgth.2022.847991
https://techround.co.uk/news/emotional-bonds-with-ai-digital-therapeutic-wysa-are-equivalent-to-human-therapist-relationships/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=emotional-bonds-with-ai-digital-therapeutic-wysa-are-equivalent-to-human-therapist-relationships Emotional attachments with AI Digital Therapeutic Wysa are equivalent to human therapist attachments