People with depression are counseled to see a therapist, but in-person therapy isn’t always an option. A new chatbot app, Woebot, could be an alternative.

Treating Depression

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects nearly 300 million people around the world. People of all ages can experience depression, a mental health disorder that not only impairs their functionality at work and at home, but in some cases lead to suicide. The WHO states that suicide is the cause of death for roughly 800,000 people every year.

Individuals with depression have several options available to them if they want to get help, including prevention programs, medication, and therapy. The problem, however, is that not everyone is capable of — or comfortable with — utilizing some of these methods due to physical, mental, or financial limitations. These limitations often force people who are experiencing depressive episodes to cope with them without professional help.

Woebot’s Here For You

Medical professionals are still conducting research to better understand depression and treat it more effectively. Products like the Gravity Blanket and electric headbands are slowly trickling into the market as means of treatment.

Chatbots are also growing in popularity as a means of providing support for people seeking meaningful conversations. One bot in particular, Woebot, was created specifically to deal with depression. Created by Alison Darcy, a clinical psychologist at Stanford University, Woebot is a chatbot smartphone app that serves as a middle-ground between talking to a human therapist and talking with a basic chatbot.

“What we haven’t done a good job of in [therapy] is give people an array of options — what about the people who aren’t ready to talk to another person?” Darcy told Business Insider. “This is part of the idea of meeting people where they’re at.”

Rather than give simplistic responses like other chatbots, Woebot instead uses the principals of cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, to tailor its responses. CBT is a form of talk therapy that tackles mental health issues by helping an individual change their pattern of negative thinking.

– Kyree Leary

Read more: New App for Depression Uses Artificial Intelligence

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