A Stanford researcher is pioneering a dramatic shift in how we treat depression !

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The message I couldn’t ignore appeared around 6 p.m. I was on the bus. Instinctively, I cupped a hand around my phone and stole a furtive glance at the newest blue bubble on the screen.“Hey Erin, you ready to check in?” someone – or something – asked.

                                        Alison Darcy

                                      Alison Darcy

The message was from Woebot, an artificially intelligent chatbot designed to help people cope with feelings of depression and anxiety that launched as a stand-alone iOS app on Thursday. It was my latest jaunt into the new and mostly uncharted territory of digital mental-health care.

Alison Darcy, the clinical psychologist at Stanford University who created Woebot, based the tool on a type of treatment called cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, a heavily researched clinical approach to depression that encourages people to examine how they react to challenging situations.

Woebot isn’t a replacement for an in-person therapist, Darcy says, nor will it help you find one. Instead, the tool is part of a widening array of approaches to mental health. But it’s fundamentally different from any other form of therapy.

“The Woebot experience doesn’t map onto what we know to be a human-to-computer relationship, and it doesn’t map onto what we know to be a human-to-human relationship either,” Darcy told Business Insider. “It seems to be something in the middle.”

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 Credit: Kory Tung

Credit: Kory Tung