Chatbot therapists are on the rise

An AI chatbot startup called Youper raised $3m to expand, but not all therapists are thrilled about robo-therapists.


June 19, 2019

Youper, a startup that makes an AI-powered, digital “mental health assistant,” raised $3m in seed funding, TechCrunch reports.

It’s not just Youper: Several fast-growing companies are building AI chatbots to provide mental health care. 

Some humanoids believe bots will revolutionize mental health, but others are concerned about the ethics of robo-therapists.

Youper says bots break down barriers

Youper already has 1m users. The company, which currently offers the chatbot for free, told TechCrunch it’s considering transitioning to a freemium model.

According to the Youper team, chatbots are more accessible than therapists because they are more private and less stigmatized.

“On average, it takes 10 years for someone to finally talk to a health provider,” Dr. Jose Hamilton, one of Youper’s co-founders, says. “This could become 10 minutes with an app like Youper.”

But not everyone believes in bots

Other AI chatbots — with names like Woebot, Wysa, and Tess — offer similar services. But human therapists remain wary of a world where bots replace human therapy altogether.

“Depending on the [chatbot’s language] abilities there might be some missed opportunities or potential misunderstandings,” Dr. Beth Jaworski, mobile apps specialist at the National Center for PTSD, told The Wall Street Journal.

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