New Facebook Messenger chatbot launches to improve mental health

Woebot app

A company called Woebot Labs launched what it says is the world’s first mental health chatbot, backed by scientific research. Woebot is dubbed an accessible, personalized, and affordable treatment option for the millions of people suffering from mood-based mental illness, such as depression and anxiety disorders. The company has also published a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health to demonstrate Woebot’s ability to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety during a two week period.

Woebot is accessed through Facebook Messenger, acting as a personal therapist to help address users’ mental health challenges. Through human-like conversations, it lets users get the emotional support they need and learn practical strategies to change the way they think about events in their lives. The smart chatbot is available anytime, anywhere, and offers accessible mental health care to those who need it at a fraction of the cost of traditional therapy.

“Most people don’t have access to therapy today,” Woebot Labs CEO and founder, Dr. Alison Darcy, said in a statement. “Barriers, like cost of treatment and social stigmas, have prevented people from getting the help that they need. Woebot represents a new era in digital therapy. We built Woebot to give people a customized therapeutic experience and the functional tools they need to manage something incredibly personal.”

Woebot is the result of years of research in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), coupled with sophisticated AI conversational technology. It is one of just a few mental health and wellness apps that have been scientifically tested or supported by clinical research.

In a peer-reviewed randomized controlled study, researchers assessed Woebot’s impact on a group of individuals suffering from anxiety and depression. The study randomized 70 undergraduate and graduate students and asked them to engage with either Woebot or a self-help ebook over a two-week period. The results demonstrated that AI-based conversational frameworks are able to successfully deliver CBT, with students who used Woebot self-reporting a significant reduction in their symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Woebot is currently available in Facebook Messenger, and comes with a free 2-week trial.