Would people talk with a chatbot about their substance use concerns?
Oct 23, 2020
With a noted increase in the use of Telehealth and online counselling services since the beginning of covid-19, an article has been published in the “International Journal of Drug Policy” titled “Enacting ‘more than human’ care: Clients’ and counsellors views on the multiple affordances of chatbots in alcohol and other drug counselling.” Chatbots are a type of artificial intelligence that uses machine learning and natural language processing to respond to human voice or text in a way that appears like the responses are being generated by a human.
The study asked both service users and counsellors from an online counselling service for their opinion on the matter. There was agreement that the use of this low cost artificial intelligence may provide some benefit in simple tasks like screening, triage or referrals which would allow counsellors more time to provide therapeutic services. However, on the downside, both groups felt concerned at the level of empathy a chatbot could provide. The study respondents believed that human understanding of feelings and genuine empathy could not be sufficiently provided by chatbots and may lead to service users not getting as much out of the service as they otherwise would.