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The Benefits and Risks of Using Talking Software to Address Mental Health

Conversational software programs are making it possible for people to seek mental health care online and via text.

Technological advances now offer the capability for patients to have personal mental health discussions with devices like smartphones and digital assistants.

Credit: roshinio/Getty Images

In an interview, Stanford University scholars Adam Miner, Arnold Milstein, and Jeff Hancock discuss the growing use of conversational software programs as a tool in mental health therapy, along with their potential advantages and drawbacks.

"Conversational agents may allow people to share experiences they don't want to talk about with another person," and thus encourage more patient honesty, Miner says.

The availability of such programs to patients amid a limited number of human mental health professionals is another potential benefit that Hancock notes.

However, Miner says negative experiences with conversational agents could make patients less willing to seek aid in the future. "A balance must be struck between high-tech and high-touch treatment," he says.

Meanwhile, Milstein says mainstream healthcare organizations will likely not adopt the technology until it demonstrates clear therapeutic benefits. "Clinical trials can address safety and efficacy, but clarity around user expectations and rules governing medical devices are needed," Miner says.

From Stanford News
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Abstracts Copyright © 2017 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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