Your virtual cousnselor will see you now

Manisha Sarup Kohli

We have entered a very exciting era for behavioral and mental health care. Advances in artificial intelligence make it possible to build intelligent machines that enhance the quality, accessibility, and efficiency of care, while also providing entirely new capabilities. The interaction of natural language processing with virtual reality has given birth to interactive intelligent virtual humans that can provide training, consultation, and treatments. Artificial intelligent agent systems can also assist with clinical decision making and healthcare management. Advances in sensing technologies and affective computing have enabled machines to detect, assess, and respond to emotional states. Moreover, the use of machine learning and pattern recognition is improving public health surveillance while brain mapping initiatives now underway provide opportunities to model behavior and better understand normal and abnormal functions of the brain. The current and forthcoming advances in AI will transform behavioral and mental health care in the years ahead. Given these advances, it is important for healthcare professionals and AI systemdesigners and developers to be aware of the current and emerging capabilities, challenges, and opportunities that AI brings to the behavioral and mental healthcare arenas. The AI technologies and techniques are in fact already at work all around us, although often behind the curtain.
According to the Father of Artificial Intelligence, John Mc Carthy, it is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. Artificial intelligence is a way of making a computer, a computer-controlled robot, or a software think intelligently, in the similar manner the intelligent humans think. Artificial intelligence or machine intelligence refers to the ability of computers to perform human like feats of cognition including learning, problem-solving, perception, decision-making, and speech and language. The AI systems have the ability to defeat a world chess champion, map streets, and compose music to more advanced algorithms, data volumes and computer power and storage, AI has evolved and expanded to include more sophisticated applications, such as self-driving cars, improved fraud detection and personal assistants likeSiri and Alexa. Not only this AI is being used by the medical researchers to develop technology that will detect a range of diseases, improve radiology imaging, fine-tune radiation treatments simplify DNA sequencing, and advance precision medicine for more individualized health care.
Many theoretical psychologists today believe that the science of artificial intelligence can include all of the phenomena generated by the human mind. The behavioral and mental health care fields are also benefiting from the advancements in AI.
The connection between human psychological functioning and the rapidly expanding field of artificial intelligence is very strong. Asartificial intelligence is a mechanized, simplified version of human neural networks and cognitive processing,therefore psychology and artificial intelligence are deeply connected and influence each other, these should be logically studied together much in the same manner as we use models to expand our understanding of other complex fields of science. Advancements in artificial intelligence are bringing psychotherapy to more people who need it.
Clinical research psychologist Dr. Alison Darcy created Woebot, a Facebook-integrated computer program that aims to replicate conversations a patient might have with his or her therapist.
“Woebot: is a chatbot that resembles an instant messaging service. The digital health technology asks about your mood and thoughts, listens to how you are feeling, learns about you and offers evidence based cognitive behavior therapy. Interaction with Woebot aims to emulate a real-life face-to-face meeting, and the interaction is tailored to the individual’s situation. Though Woebot is just a robot and cannot replace human connection.
Nonetheless many experts agree that options like Woebot make CBT more accessible to a modern generation that chronically lacks the time and is accustomed to 24/7 connectivity. This carefully designed software offers private sessions that do not need to be pre-booked and are affordable. There are other systems also to improve people’s mental health such as. Some of the early chatbots were designed in the 1960s at the MIT artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Their program –
*Eliza:is able to stimulate a short conversation between a therapist and a patient and is considered the grandparent of systems being used today. Advances in natural language processing and the popularity of smartphones have made chatbots the new starlets of AI for mental health care.
*Chatbots: are constantly improving to become more human like and natural. They also offer different languages option. For example, Emma speaks Dutch and is a bot designed to help with mild anxiety, while Karim speaks Arabic and has been assisting Syrian refugees struggling to cope after fleeing the atrocities of war. Currently the latest psychological AI product is Tess.
* Tess:the mental health chatbot that thinks like a therapist. Itcan perform CBT, as well as purportedly improve the burnout associated with caregiving. If one is experiencing a panic attack or want to vent or need to talk things out before going to sleep, one can just connect with her through an instant-messaging app, and Tess will reply immediately.
* Robots: can be a helpful tool for those with autism. People with autism have trouble with social interaction. However, they often have a fondness for computers and technology, so robots can be a helpful tool for teaching social skills. Similarly, robots are being researched as a learning aid for children with anxiety or mood disorders.
*Sparx: is a video game designed to target depression and anxiety in teenagers. The game takes place in a fantasy world. As the user navigates the environment, they complete various tasks and challenges which are designed to teach them techniques for dealing with their depression.
There are also emerging ethical issues that need to be carefully considered, such as new risks to patient privacy. As we build and deploy these technologies, we must not forget about the importance of the relationship between care providers and care seekers and the responsibilities we have towards each other. We must build these machines to always serve the well-being of people, to alleviate suffering as much as possible, and to do so in a fair and ethical manner.—it is about empowering humans.
If we can see more, know more, beyond the constrains with which we are born only then we can do more,gain deeper insights and better understand what lies upon the horizon of mental health care.
(The author is Associate Prof. Department of Psychology Govt. PG College for Women Gandhi Nagar, Jammu