Sharing your most personal thoughts and feelings is tough. For some folks, working up the courage to not only make an appointment with a therapist, but to actually show up and bare all is almost as anxiety-inducing as the problems some folks are facing. Enter Woebot; this robot therapist is designed to change the way we deal with mental health.
What is Woebot?
Woebot is an automated chatbot who helps you evaluate your mood and learn about yourself. Drawing from a therapeutic framework known as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Woebot checks in on how you’re feeling and what’s going on in your life by initiating daily conversations.
Woebot was created by experts in clinical psychology and says it has a demonstrated ability to make people happier. The app is free.
I first heard about Woebot through a futurist conference speaker and found the idea fascinating and groundbreaking. So much of getting help when you’re in an emotionally fragile state is admitting you have a problem and asking for help. With Woebot, it can make taking that first step easier.
Do I need a therapist?
The creators behind Woebot say they came up with the idea of a robot therapist, “because the sad truth is that more than half of the world’s population still doesn’t have access to basic health care. For many more, mental health care is not an option. So we asked ourselves, “what tools can we use to help?””
What is CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Woebot employs something called CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is described as a combination of talk therapy and behavioral therapy, where working with a coach or therapist can help you find effective coping mechanisms to help you identify and manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviours in real-world situations. Woebot uses this kind of interaction; identifying your feelings and then talking about why you’re feeling that way, to help you.
How to use Woebot
By downloading the Woebot app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, you can start having daily check-ins, without revealing your name, or any identifying data. You don’t even need to sign up if you don’t want to, choosing ‘Skip’ instead.
I decided to give Woebot a try over a few days. The set up process was easy and definitely anonymous… at least as anonymous as doing anything supposedly anonymous is on the internet these days (Read more). You’ll give Woebot a name to call you; I chose Friend.
Then you’ll give your consent for the chat process and read over the necessary disclaimers.
Chatting with Woebot
Chats with Woebot are supposed to happen daily for best results. Though I gave the app permission to send me push notifications, I didn’t seem to get any initiations for several days. Then about a week after I first downloaded the app I got a ‘hello there!’ note and an invitation to chat with my robot therapist via push notification.
In my first chat with Woebot we talked about what kind of a mood I was in (happy!) and why I was feeling that way (I took the time to do yoga, the weather was nice and I was with my husband and puppy). Then I learned about behavioural skills for well-being. I also was shown a cartoon video about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Our next chat I was also feeling cheery (Woebot’s mood choices are somewhat limited) but I wanted to test Woebot’s different responses so I chose “OK”. Woebot’s response was “Glad to hear that”.
I really wanted to see what Woebot might be able to help me with so I wanted to choose sad, but the app has pre-determined quick responses, so there seems to be no way to say, “Hey, I lied. I feel like crap”.
Woebot is supposed to initiate chats with you each day, but I found I wasn’t getting nudged, though I thought I had enabled the settings correctly.
Even so, the idea of chatting with a robot therapist is an intriguing one that could hold the power to help tens of thousands of people. Learn more about the app from Woebot’s website.