Why Mental Health Chatbot for Therapy is Getting Popular


The year was 2015. A man with spectacles sat in a well-lit room. Another man lay on the sofa staring at the AC. The man with spectacles, a seasoned therapist, ensured that the man on the sofa was comfortable–both physically and mentally. He began asking questions, and the patient started opening up.

This is typical mental health counselling. Well, we can give some credit to the movies and web series for giving us a sneak peek inside the therapist’s room, which otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to visualize.

Despite the stigma associated with mental health issues, the previous decade saw a drastic improvement in the number of mental health therapies. However, the rising awareness among individuals about their mental health and an increasing number of sessions implied that a revolution is in the making.

The mental health facilities began operating at their full capacity, leaving no or little room for immediate therapies. Patients began suffering from yet another anxiety–the anxiety of the wait times. That was when the healthcare industry understood the seriousness of mental health issues and started looking at technology for a solution.

Fast forward to 2020, when seeking an in-person visit to a therapist was tough, owing to the lockdown scenario. Hence, telemedicine and video consultations scratched the surface to emerge as the best possible solution. However, there was a challenge nobody could identify–the unexplained rationale behind the distorted ratio between the number of therapists and patients.

According to WHO, there are only six psychiatrists per 100,000 individuals.

This ratio signifies that the demand for mental health services surpasses the availability of therapists. In response, our technologists at TRooTech, ascertain the potential of artificial intelligence as the first line of treatment for mental health patients.

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AI chatbot apps for mental health therapy are targeted at individuals who can show proactiveness, talk to patients, listen to their agony, and chat with them anytime and anywhere. In addition to this, chatbots even pick up the keywords and make recommendations to improve their mental well being.

Coming to the age that we live in, it would suffice to say that mental health chatbot is a pathway for instant treatment.

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Implementation of Emotional AI: Adding Empathy in AI Chatbots


While Siri, Cortana, and Google have been at our disposal at the first word we speak, they have only been perceived as virtual assistants for boosting customer interactivity and service. 

For instance, you call for Siri and tell her, ”Hey Siri, I have had the best day of my life.”

Siri, ”I don’t understand what you are saying. Can you speak again?”

Modern chatbots are information-based and are neutral. They lack their opinion bone. However, several studies have found that the new-age chatbots have far more potential with emotions than just being an instrument to communicate information.

This revelation brought us to what we know as empathetic AI or emotional AI.

For developing an app for mental health chatbot, there are three crucial layers:

  • Sentiment Analysis
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Chatbot Backend

Today, chatbots can replicate the human tendency to strike an empathetic conversation with its users using NLP–Natural Language Processing. The sentiment analytics and natural language processing models can help chatbots equip emotions and respond compassionately when detecting negative emotions.

Usually, Natural Language Processing and Sentiment Analytics are often confused for being similar terms. However, they both differ from their ground zeroes. The NLP is used to implement the read and understandability among chatbots, while Sentiment Analytics is more about its feelings. The NLP understands what the user is trying to interpret, and the sentiment analytics compare the input of a user to identify matching emotions.

Let’s take a look at the example to see how NLP and Sentiment Analytics are different:

User Response 1: “Hey Siri, what is the weather forecast for tomorrow?”

Chatbot: “The weather is expected to be sunny with 43 degrees celsius.”

User Response 2: “Oh, is it going to be hot again?”

In response 1, the user is seeking information about the weather. Hence, the sentiment for response 1 is neutral. As a result, the chatbot is providing the required information. However, when the user inputs response 2, the sentimental analytics springs into action to analyse the negative emotion.

For response 2, the response of the AI chatbot would have been the following:

“Sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

On the contrary, the EI-based chatbot would have had a rather empathetic response:

“I understand your concern and disappointment. Dealing with the sunny weather is not easy. However, let me share some tips for you to stay cool.”

As seen in the example above, the sentimental analytics classifies the user’s response into three categories:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Neutral

The chatbot took two statements into consideration to form the link between the disappointment of the user. Since the first statement showed neutral emotion, the chatbot jumped to the second statement that showed negative feelings. As a result, the chatbot was able to find that heat is the cause of the disappointment. Such analytics help the chatbot answer appropriately and empathize with the user.

Mental Health Chatbot to Surpass In-person Consultations

It has been found that most users suffering from distress or mental health issues of some sort often feel the need to talk it out. However, the discomfort to talk eye-to-eye often discourages them from visiting a therapist. This especially holds true for users, who are introverts or have fear of getting biased opinions for their thoughts/feelings. So, when it comes to talking to a therapist, they suffer from two layers of anxiety.

That’s when chatbot apps prove effective. Based on the app usability and thinking patterns of users, we have found multiple pros offered by chatbot app for mental health therapy:

Talking to a Non-judgemental Bot is ComfortableAccording to a research titled, ‘Impact of Exchanges and Client-Therapist Alliance in Online-Text Psychotherapy’, a revelation came to light that implied that most users find it easier to seek online text-based therapy than in-person consultation. To put this into perspective, users find it convenient to open up when a non-judgemental AI chatbot is at the receiving end.
Easy on the PocketThe typical per hourly cost of a therapist in the U.S. ranges between USD 100 to USD 300. Increased number of sessions lead to higher therapy costs. This range of cost is fairly expensive. On the other hand, the mental health chatbot is based on a subscription model. Users get numerous features, resources, and consultations under a single app, which makes it highly affordable.
Works the Best for Minor DistressThe first step to resolve any mental health condition is awareness. Hence, a mental health chatbot can help identify and distinguish whether the condition is temporary or a grave one. If the chatbot detects minor distress, the same can be handled by sharing resources and offering tips, which makes seeking in-person consultation redundant.
Accessible Anytime, AnywhereMost individuals suffering from any kind of mental health disorder often stay isolated and disconnected from the world. Hence, they refuse to step out of their house, which further raises the importance of mental health chatbot. Individuals do not have to wait for someone from the community to respond at their own pace. Users can access the chatbot app anytime.
Privacy GuaranteedWhen you opt for community-based therapy, your identity may be concealed, but it is still there with your therapists. On the contrary, users get complete privacy and anonymity while opting for therapy from an AI chatbot.
Defies StigmaSocial stigma is a common cause why users fear visiting a therapist. However, when the therapy is offered online, users do not have to think about the stigma. They can simply opt for the chatbot app for mental health therapy with utmost anonymity.

Given the multiple benefits of a mental health chatbot, users are turning away from community-based and in-person therapy towards text-based therapy.

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Using Emotional AI to Predict Suicide Risks


Though it is not often considered, the fact is that poor mental wellbeing holds the mortality risks and morbidity similar to any other health condition. Talk therapy can, in turn, help in reducing stress and switching off suicidal thoughts.

Artificial intelligence can be used to trigger analytics for identifying individuals showing suicidal tendencies by connecting them with the local authorities. One of the crucial features of the artificial intelligence tool is that it ‘watches out’ the behaviour of individuals by constantly monitoring their feelings and moods using mood boards. 

A mental health chatbot leverages artificial intelligence algorithms to identify the emojis, terms, and words used by the users that directly or indirectly point at suicidal thoughts. In addition to this, the app can even identify individuals who require immediate attention. The data from the AI chatbot app can be used to monitor the call/text/message, which raises flags among the local authorities to enable interventions for patients. Integration of AI tools can help forecast the short-term risk associated with suicide risk.

Artificial intelligence is advancing as a mental health chatbot is taking care of the following:


The chats in the mental health chatbot are secured for users. Similar to the top messaging app, encryption can be an important key for the collection, transfer, and storage of the data.


The AI algorithms can churn out the data to identify the suicide intent using the most used terms and emoji in the chat. For instance, it was found in a survey that people using the ‘pill’ emoji are more suicidal than people actually using the word suicide.


AI chatbot apps are usually well connected with the authorities that help prevent suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Hence, these apps can serve as a link between users and the authorities.


The response protocols in an emotional AI app is built to flag the risk associated with suicidal tendencies. AI Chatbot for mental health therapy should have therapists and psychiatrists on board to connect with these individuals and address their conditions. Hence, AI technology is being more responsible for individuals opting for mental health therapy.

What is the Potential of a Mental Health Chatbot?

In today’s time, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that mental health therapy is a need rather than a want. One in every four individuals in the U.S. suffers from at least one kind of mental health condition. As a result, timely interventions by chatbot apps can help individuals analyze the real issue and take actions at scale.

Below are the best use cases and potential of a mental health chatbot for therapy.

Workplace Stress can be Handled Efficiently:

A modern individual leads multiple lives in a day. Given the influence of social media, the accessibility of an individual’s life is more. Hence, the societal expectations to live a life with certain standards often causes stress and anxiety among individuals, which brings us to a significant category of stress–workplace stress. While individuals already suffer from a lack of time, a chatbot app can help individuals manage work and spare time for therapies at their own convenience and pace.

A Chatbot App can be as Pervasive as the Mental Health Issue:


Preexisting mental health issues have been compounded during the spread of COVID-19. Isolation, quarantine, staying away from families, and having zero social life have been pointing towards mood disorders and depression. Hence, the need for a mental health chatbot is more immediate and urgent, given that mental health issues are more pervasive in recent times.

Multiple Disorders can be Treated Using an Emotional AI Chatbot:

Major depressive episodes among individuals often lead to the co-occurrence of multiple mental health issues. Mostly it is anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. Hence, when an individual opts for in-person or community-based therapy, the course of treatment is often focused on one disorder at a time. While using a chatbot app, a user can talk about all things, and the bot can offer resources and best practices to follow for users to win multiple battles of disorders simultaneously.

Emotional AI can Bridge the Treatment Gap:

As per an incisive study by WHO, the median treatment gap for depression is about 56%, while that for bipolar disorder is nearly 50%. What’s more startling is the treatment gap for alcohol abuse, which is 78%. Some of these gaps are the direct influence of social stigma. At the same time, some gaps exist due to insufficient or low awareness regarding mental health issues. On the contrary, some treatment gaps in the developed countries exist, owing to the low availability of the therapist. In such a case, a significant reduction in social stigma and increasing awareness about mental health therapies have been achieved while the ratio of patient-to-psychiatrist is not, which puts a principal responsibility on the mental health chatbot.

Chatbots enable early interventions and work better than most of the primitive mental health solutions for the primary diagnosis of the issue. There is still a dearth of mental health chatbot, making the chatbot-based mental health therapy market conducive to the solution.

Why has the Demand for Chatbot Apps Spiked for Mental Health Therapy?

Initially, chatbots’ role as customer service providers increased as more users started interacting with them. With time, chatbots evolved to turn into smarter communicators by incorporating machine learning and natural language processing technology.

As the chatbot technology turned efficient as an assistant, they were turned empathetic with sentimental analytics. This opened vast opportunities for them to develop human-like tendencies. Hence, the implementation of AI chatbot began by offering mental health therapy.

Chatbot apps align with the element that stirs and gets users to resonate with most of the apps–which is convenience. Below are some of the other factors that turn users towards the chatbot app:

Independent of Location:

Users need not have to move an inch from their comfortable spots to avail themselves a therapy.

Safety and Security:

Users don’t have to worry about someone overhearing the conversation. They can simply pour their heart out with the highest level of anonymity.

24X7 Availability:

A psychiatrist has limitations of time, an AI chatbot doesn’t. A person can simply launch the app and share his/her feelings with the bot anytime that too without any appointment.



If a user is not ready to open up, a chatbot doesn’t pressure the person. A user has complete control over the conversation and session.

No Judgement:

A chatbot isn’t a real person. Hence, it does not judge the patient based on thoughts or actions, which helps a user in sharing concerns with transparency.

Some chatbots can mimic emotions, and some can analyze well.

Meet Woebot: AI Chatbot App for Mental Health Therapy

If you believe that chatbot-based mental health therapy can only be a fantasy, you haven’t met Woebot yet. Woebot was launched in the year 2017 as a mental health chatbot ahead of its time. Woebot acts as a cross between a friend and a therapist.

Woebot isn’t a replacement for the therapy or consultation. Woebot clearly states that it is not a crisis service but a self-help tool. It is a good practice to share one’s mental conditions and detect the seriousness of the mental health issue at the initial stage since waiting for in-person therapy is tedious.

Popularity of Woebot among the Users:

Woebot offers personalized informational content for users, which would otherwise come from an experienced therapist. The chatbot app for mental health therapy envisions bringing quality to mental health care.

The target audience for Woebot was young adults, falling between the ages of 18-28. However, the app saw its user base broadening from the age of 16-100 years. The reason for the increasing popularity of Woebot lies in the simple interface that works well for all age groups.

As per the study published in the JMIR, users using Woebot have recorded significant improvements in the levels of anxiety, depression, cravings, and substance abuse. Below is factual and stats-backed point from the study:

  • Woebot users experienced 23% reduction in the symptoms of anxiety.
  • The mental health chatbot is found to reduce about 50% of cravings.
  • Users witnessed a rise of about 36% in confidence to resist their urges.
  • Users have experienced a decrease of 21% in the symptoms of depression and nearly 23% in anxiety.

Popularity of Woebot among the Investors:

With 100k+ downloads, 4.8-star ratings on App Store and 4.7 satisfaction ratings on Play Store, Woebot claims to be the world’s first app for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It has been established on the foundation of Clinical validation. The automated psychotherapy bot company raised about USD 8 Mn in series A funding.

Another key point to note about the app is that it has been launched for the global public. Given the reach it has, the bot currently receives over 2 Mn messages per week. In addition to this, the firm valuation was about USD 10Mn to USD 50Mn in 2018.

The app is growing in terms of functionality and features, which is further attracting users and, in turn, raising the business quotient. Once the profitability of the mental health chatbot has been established, more investors are attracted to mental wellbeing apps.

 Taking inspiration from the digitalizing mental health space, newer technologies such as VR are being explored for the development of mental wellbeing apps.

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Reduce Bias: The Ultimate Way to Win Users


What was once built to set the best example for the future chatbots went out to set a cautionary example. Yes, we are talking about Tay, the Twitter bot that picked up on the hate speeches only to classify as the ‘bad bot’.

While developing an AI chatbot app for offering mental health therapy, it is crucial to be extremely cautious about the words and emotions that the chatbot presents. The key to developing a winning chatbot app lies in reducing the bias while adapting to new emotions.

Here are some of the best ways to reduce bias in a chatbot to avoid accidentally birthing the next Tay:

Enable a Wide Set of Viewpoints:

When an AI chatbot is exposed to multiple possibilities, it is less likely to pass on a biased judgement. One of the best ways to accomplish diversity is by having the chatbot app tested by various users.

Build Chatbots to Collect Relevant Data:

A chatbot is nothing without data. It interprets the data received from the user and processes the best possible response to it. Hence, it is crucial to develop a chatbot that can collect relevant data.

Integrate Personalization:

When a chatbot has a broad set of tasks, it is easy to turn biased about it, given the unclarity that encircles. Hence, the chatbot should be trained to analyze the pattern of an individual and respond based on the personalized settings implemented by him/her.

More About Author


Vishal Nakum

Vishal Nakum is a tech enthusiast with a passion for exploring the latest developments in the world of technology. He has a keen interest in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Blockchain, and enjoys keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements in these fields. Vishal is an avid learner and is always on the lookout for new ways to expand his knowledge and skills. He is also a creative thinker and enjoys experimenting with new ideas and concepts. In his free time, Vishal enjoys playing video games and reading books on technology and science.