A human hand and a robot hand reaching toward each other

When Will AI Become Your Therapist?

Do you think AI will take over therapy and make people like me obsolete?

It’s interesting to me that when some new and revolutionary tech pops onto the scene, people immediately go to the worst case scenario.

  • It will take all our jobs.
  • We won’t be able to think for ourselves.
  • It will take over the world, and we’ll become its slaves.
  • It will bring out the worst in us.
  • It will require nothing from us and turn us into entitled pagan sloths.
  • It will turn us into cheaters and plagiarists.

I remember these same arguments at the dawn of the Internet age (I’m that old).

We fancied ourselves as quite the industrious lot with our CC mail to chat with the colleague in the next cubicle and our Macintosh Quadra computers, but the real future was so much more than just thinking differently about our work.

When the Internet went mainstream, it was like the picture quite literally overnight went from black and white to color (I’m also that old).

The Internet defiantly ended one era of human history, but gave birth to technologies and opportunities that started millions of completely new paths.

It was a very big deal.

Now, 30 years later, you can easily say that the Internet has, for sure, brought about some of my aforementioned bulleted list.

I surely feel like an entitled pagan sloth sometimes when I take binge-watching too far.

But it has also brought legions of opportunities that would not have existed without it.

My previous career as a communications professional would not have existed without the Internet, and I would not be doing the work I’m doing today in mental health without this monumental technology shift.

I’m pretty grateful for that.

AI is a very big deal, too.

AI is bigger than the Internet. It’s a different kind of game changer because you don’t have to just play the one game.

The Internet fundamentally transformed communication and information sharing.

But AI will stretch across every industry, sector, application and function.

It will change everything.

That’s why it feels so scary.

And for mental health, these changes could present some real challenges in terms of safety and accuracy.

In spite of this, though, taking this same all-or-nothing approach to this new technology might also limit us from what those changes can offer.

As a therapist, instead of thinking about what AI could take away from me, I can consider how it will enhance and expand my role.

  • What things could it do better than me so I can focus on what I do best?
  • How will it help a client who is resistant to starting therapy or who is having trouble engaging in therapy once they’ve gotten access to a therapist?
  • How can it help clients apply the principles they learn in session in those times when real life throws a curveball at them?

It’s true that AI has ratcheted up the stakes already by making the basic tenets of therapy potentially available to people efficiently and inexpensively.

But therapy is not that cut and dry.

We don’t solve the mental health problem in our society by just providing access to mental health services and information.

  • Once there is access, the therapy has to engage the client in some way so that they will come to the table to do the work.
  • The therapist and the client have to work together to create goals that the client will agree to work on. And if they’re not working on them, then we try to work through that to find goals the client will agree to work on.
  • And the client has to do the work to understand that the benefit of being able to function in their life in spite of the challenges outweighs any of the financial and emotional costs that therapy brings.

These are all things that require accountability and a human touch (and also work). And to be honest, this is the sweet spot that most therapists want to be in as they serve their clients.

Rather than fearing AI will replace me, I can choose to adapt and integrate AI as a tool that supports and extends my capabilities so that my clients have what they need to generate solutions for their problems.

Having said that…

AI will not make therapists obsolete but it will most likely redefine the practice of therapy in some very real ways. It just performs too well, too easily for that not to happen.

The challenge, though, is to steer the development of AI in ways that keep it anchored to the core values of the profession—empathy, ethics, and personal connection—while embracing the opportunities for growth and innovation that ultimately will serve our clients best.

I’m on board with that.


This recent “60 minutes” segment is what spurred my thinking on this. It’s an interesting piece, and I think the players in this space are trying to do the right thing. Check it out if you’re interested.

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