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The Next Generation: Chatbots in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy to Foster Mental Health – A Scoping Review

Abstract

Background and Purpose: The present age of digitalization brings with it progress and new possibilities for health care in general and clinical psychology/psychotherapy in particular. Internet- and mobile-based interventions (IMIs) have often been evaluated. A fully automated version of IMIs are chatbots. Chatbots are automated computer programs that are able to hold, e.g., a script-based conversation with a human being. Chatbots could contribute to the extension of health care services. The aim of this review is to conceptualize the scope and to work out the current state of the art of chatbots fostering mental health. Methods: The present article is a scoping review on chatbots in clinical psychology and psychotherapy. Studies that utilized chatbots to foster mental health were included. Results: The technology of chatbots is still experimental in nature. Studies are most often pilot studies by nature. The field lacks high-quality evidence derived from randomized controlled studies. Results with regard to practicability, feasibility, and acceptance of chatbots to foster mental health are promising but not yet directly transferable to psychotherapeutic contexts. ­Discussion: The rapidly increasing research on chatbots in the field of clinical psychology and psychotherapy requires corrective measures. Issues like effectiveness, sustainability, and especially safety and subsequent tests of technology are elements that should be instituted as a corrective for future funding programs of chatbots in clinical psychology and psychotherapy.

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