Psychology And Technology Come Together for Better Future

Technology innovators are in great need of psychologists and their research to ensure technology will benefit our mental health.

Technology innovators are in great need of psychologists and their research to ensure technology will benefit our mental health.

Mental Health Through Apps and Bots

The U.S is going through a mental health crisis that can’t be addressed solely by training more clinicians. In many parts of the world, access to mental health care is almost non-existent. This is where digital therapeutics come into play due to technology innovators.

“There really is no other option,” said Jenna Carl, PhD, a clinical psychologist and chief medical officer at Big Health, a company that develops digital therapeutics. “It’s not feasible to reach the full scale of support that we need just through training more clinicians.”

Digital health interventions range widely, from wellness apps designed to improve sleep to comprehensive clinical treatments for depression and other conditions to even having psychologist chatbots. Some are used alongside traditional therapy, while others give patients full control over their treatment.

“What’s really wonderful about these new opportunities is that people can get different levels of support,” due to patients having certain preferences regarding their treatment processes, according to Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, a professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Digital Mental Health at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Many patients still prefer the traditional way of therapy sessions which are one-on-one, but due to busy schedules, geographic locations, and stigma some therapists and their patients diverted to the use of technology through having online sessions. This should give us humans a clue that there is no possibility of AI chatbots that would replace the classic therapy sessions.

One of the famous chatbots called Psychologist chatbot on the platform was done by a psychology student to aid students going through anxiety or any other psychological trauma. The question is if we are feeding this bot along with other bots as well, what will it be doing to our privacy?

Why Privacy Matters

Digital privacy has become a highly complex landscape with numerous challenges. Even defining privacy varies among individuals. There are advantages to sacrificing some privacy, such as buying tickets online or monitoring classrooms for safety. However, experts agree that the current formation of privacy permissions for apps and bots is overly complicated.

“We really have to better design privacy in a way that we don’t expect our consumers to manage each individual application,” said Heng Xu, PhD, a professor at the Warrington College of Business, University of Florida. “Think twice before sharing anything because it’s so hard to be forgotten in cyberspace.”

Despite legislation aimed at protecting consumers and their “right to be forgotten,” there is still no method to completely remove consumer data from machine learning algorithms.

“We haven’t figured out the implementation of removing data from the influence and output of algorithms,” Xu explained. “Machine ‘unlearning’ is a huge challenge.”

What does the future hold for privacy?

Psychologists are quick to point out the equity issues involved.

“Privacy is a commodity that is available to people with more resources. That is something we need to be very careful to work against,” said Tara Behrend, PhD, a professor at Michigan State University and president of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Psychologists could assist technology innovators in enhancing the positive aspects of chatbots, applications, and social media. This collaboration could improve mental health without making us overly dependent on technology. Creating a balance between tech leaders and psychologists is essential for maintaining our mental health in a generation that relies on technology for everything.

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