As artificial intelligence systems continue to advance, robots have come to represent real alternatives to today’s jobs. Now there is barista robot, cleaning robot and robot dogs. But is it possible for robots to be therapists as well?
According to a recent study by technology company Oracle and consulting firm HR Workplace Intelligence, 82% of respondents in 11 countries believe that robots can support their mental health better than humans.
It also found that the COVID-19 pandemic increased work-related stress in many people, adversely affecting the mental health of 78% of the global workforce.
Due to the lack of mental health professionals and social workers in many countries, some experts believe that the use of robots could help clinics diagnose humans, giving psychiatrists and psychologists more time to counsel other patients.
A concrete example is Singapore, one of the most overburdened cities in the world, where the government intends to take steps to resolve the mental health crisis, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressing the issue in a recent speech.
“AI would certainly help automate routine tasks, such as psychometric assessments or IQ tests, that would give human specialists room to do other things,” said Desmond Soh, a psychologist practicing at Annabelle Psychology in Singapore.
Automated diagnosis and robotic psychologists
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a neural network model that can detect depression in speech patterns in recorded text and in conversations.
In the future, the model could be added to mobile applications that monitor a user’s text and voice for mental health issues.
This could be especially useful for people who cannot go to a mental health clinic for a proper diagnosis due to distance, cost or even the anxiety of being vulnerable to a human therapist.
Beyond the diagnosis, a study by the Australian Center for Robotic Vision and the Queensland University of Technology found that social robots have enormous potential to help people cope with depression, drug and alcohol abuse and eating disorders
“The beauty of social robot interventions is that they could help reduce the potential negative effects of face-to-face therapy with a human health practitioner, such as perceived judgment or stigma,” says Dr. Nicole Robinson, co-author of the study.
According to the Oracle poll, only 18% of people would prefer humans to robots to support their mental health, because they believe that robots provide an area without judgment, an impartial outlet to share problems and quick answers to health questions.
Robots could pave the way for new ways of treatment, employment opportunities for the population and a better patient response.
However, there are also limitations to the technology
Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (UTM) analyzed the ethical implications of robotic therapists and they found that humans can be manipulated more easily by robots than their human counterparts.
Then there is the issue of empathy, a quality that will be difficult to reproduce because it cannot be fully automated or programmed, at least not at present.
Jolin Pan, a 20-year-old Singapore resident, attends anxiety counseling sessions. While seeing the benefits of robots in mental health, he mentioned that he still longs for the human connection.
“When I go to a counseling session, I want someone who has emotions and can empathize,” she said. “I think robots or AI systems certainly help to some extent, but when it comes to more complex issues, such as deep-rooted family issues or complex conflicts of friendship, I feel that a robot could not satisfy me. needs “.
Human connection still remains crucial for the effective management of mental health issues.