Kevin Crowley was caught in a crowd during a trampling incident that killed 94 people. He was severely traumatized. He tried therapy to help him cope, but it was initially to no avail.

But two years ago he spotted a poster advertising therapy over the internet, and he decided to give it another go. After dozens of regular sessions in which he and his therapist talked via text message, Cowley, now 49, is at last recovering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s amazing how a few words can change a life,” says Andrew Blackwell, chief scientific officer at Ieso, the UK-based mental health clinic treating Cowley.

What’s crucial is delivering the right words at the right time. Blackwell and his colleagues at Ieso are pioneering a new approach to mental-health care in which the language used in therapy sessions is analyzed by an AI. The idea is to use natural-language processing (NLP) to identify which parts of a conversation between therapist and client—which types of utterance and exchange—seem to be most effective at treating different disorders.

The NLP being used would operate something like sentiment analysis. The results from these findings could open up the door to much more effective, evidence based protocols and standards within psychotherapy. This type of research and rigor is crucial right now, when mental health issues are on the rise globally. As someone with a degree in psychology, I can state that I’ve never seen this type of a heavily data integrated approach to psychotherapy before and it gives me great hope for the discipline.

The therapists using AI to make therapy better | MIT Technology Review

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