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Adapting And The Possible Role of AI In Mental Health

The concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a very popular buzzword in many different industries. Questions are frequently being asked how can it make the world better or worse. What are the gains and risks? What industries will be impacted, and how will the world change? These are all great questions that should be asked as we venture into a new world. I can say for sure that no matter what it is coming it has the power to change many things we need to adapt to, including within the role it may play in Mental Health Care.

Over the course of my work with TrainerMD, I have been learning a lot about AI, how it works, and am always thinking of new applications for them and in my daily practice with clients. However, before getting to that I want to dispel a few myths from the start. AI is not going to replace therapists or the work we do. There is plenty of research already that the therapist-client relationship plays a role in symptom improvement and life functioning and that cannot be replaced. Obviously the concept of this new model can be scary as every new technology throughout history has been, and every new technology comes with many pros and cons. Think about the invention of electricity and how it changed society as went from living half our lives in darkness to a 24 hour day world. Other inventions were scary, the car, air travel, computers, and the internet just to name a few. Yes bad things happen with each of these technologies and we need to not be naive about this fact as we enter the AI world. We are humans, and unfortunately humans do bad things and abuse technology for their own gain. However, what about all the good. An important mental lesson there that we should also focus on the good, the positive, and not necessarily catastrophize the negatives if we can find the way to control the risks, and show significant positive progress. That is the importance of adapting.

As I said, I have been learning about the possibilities of AI in general in improving society, but given my role specifically about the benefits to mental health. As we said there are always negatives, but for the sake of this blog really just going to focus on the benefits to mental health, in no particular order.

  1. From a practical standpoint AI can help with the clerical, day to day operations, including notes, billing, networking, etc. Basically it will make the day to day mundane tasks that providers have to do that takes up time better spent with clients.

  2. The first few sessions are often spent obtaining history, symptom presentation, assessing client needs, and setting goals. AI could better help clinicians understand the information and start the treatment part of work faster and more effectively.

  3. Goal setting is essential to treatment. Goals must be specific and measurable, and AI can help clients specifically track their progress over time on a concrete specific level. Much of the time is spent with client report, but AI can now provide evidence and data to there goals so they can be adjusted as needed. In turn this can really help a client increase confidence as they see progress over time.

  4. All progress can be tracked with data assessment, graphs, scoring that can be done at the start of treatment and had specified times during it. Again it be all automated and scored for the client and tracked in real time. It can even start to bring into treatment other means of data collection such as wearables that track things such as sleep that are paramount to mental health.

  5. Journaling can help with the process first by providing additional data for goals, but as AI learns the client it can begin to analyze and assessment what is being written and how which in turn only provides more data.

  6. In time there will be so much data at plan, that it is challenging for a clinician to organize and assess everything in real time. However, to truly know a client and synthesize information only AI can do it in an efficient and successful manner.

  7. Synthesizing information means tracking which interventions work and which do not. Why waste your time on something that will not work when you can be focusing on the things that do.

  8. If done correctly, and is data and fact driven, AI can reduce clinician bias. We all have them so might as well have an aid to reduce them.

  9. More and more research is showing the overlap between mental health and nutrition, exercise, and many other environmental variables. AI can help a clinician run queries or learn about these connections in many new and exciting ways that can then be applied to treatment.

  10. AI will allow a client to take control of tracking their own personal health record, input data important to him or her. Control for a client can be very powerful.

  11. AI can allow for the search of resources, videos, books etc for clients, or the creation of them by clinicians, that can be tailored specifically for the client need.

  12. With more resources and assessments available, and with more independent client control of their mental health, more clients can actually be supported. There is already a shortage of clinicians, and only so many hours in the day, but with AI providing support clinicians can actually take on more clients with more of the treatment being on autopilot. this benefits everyone as it will be significantly easier (maybe cheaper) to find a provider.

  13. If clients can track all data, medical, psychological, etc they can choose which providers to share it with. It can allow provider communication and sharing of data without providers even needing to pick up the phone and call each other. Collaboration is essential for treatment success so why not make it easier and more effective as well?

  14. If clinicians choose, they can integrate all this information into the client's electronic medical record. In real time a medical record can be constantly assessing and reassessing all the data coming to new conclusions, treatment recommendations, and leading to new clinician questions.

  15. Finally, AI can help providers, clients, the mental health community as a whole start to ask questions and get answers to information they would never have even wondered about with it. Imagine how much we are missing that we do not even know we are missing because we do not even know what questions to ask.

While these are only a few thoughts about the benefits of AI to mental health, I am sure there are so many benefits I missed. the hope is that this is just the start of a more detailed discussion that can benefit everyone's mental health.


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