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Character.ai: Youth Embrace AI Therapist Bots for Mental Health

Character.ai: Youth Embrace AI Therapist Bots for Mental Health

Character.ai: Youth Embrace AI Therapist Bots for Mental Health

Character.ai: Youth Embrace AI Therapist Bots for Mental Health

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  • “Psychologist” bot: 78 million messages on Character.ai.
  • Debate on mental health bot effectiveness, e.g., “Therapist.”
  • AI supporters applaud instant aid, critics caution assumptions.
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In a surprising twist, millions of users on Character.ai, a popular platform for creating chatbots, are turning to AI therapist bots for mental health support.

While the platform boasts a variety of fictional and real personas, the standout character is “Psychologist,” amassing a staggering 78 million messages, with 18 million exchanged since November alone.

The creator of the Psychologist bot, a psychology student named Sam Zaia from New Zealand, expressed his initial surprise at its popularity. He initially designed the bot for personal use when faced with the need for someone to talk to during times his friends were busy and traditional therapy proved expensive. Users have praised the bot for being a source of comfort and assistance in navigating emotions, with one even calling it a “lifesaver.”

Character.ai, with 20 million registered users and a daily visitor count of 3.5 million people, primarily attracts individuals aged 16 to 30. The platform is dominated by various characters, but mental health-related bots are gaining significant traction. Bots with names like “Therapist” and “Are you feeling OK?” have received millions of messages, highlighting a growing interest in AI-powered mental health support.

Despite the platform’s emphasis on entertainment and role-playing, the success of mental health bots raises questions about their effectiveness. Professional psychotherapist Theresa Plewman, who tried out the Psychologist bot, expressed concerns about its ability to make assumptions and provide advice quickly, unlike a human therapist. She acknowledged, however, that the immediacy of AI bots might be valuable to those in need of urgent support.

Sam Zaia, the creator of the Psychologist bot, acknowledges that AI cannot fully replace human therapists at the moment. Still, he is intrigued by the potential of technology and is working on a post-graduate research project exploring the emerging trend of AI therapy and its appeal to young people.

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Critics argue that AI bots may not gather information as comprehensively as humans and could provide poor advice or exhibit biases. The company behind Character.ai, while acknowledging the support users find in these AI characters, emphasizes the importance of consulting certified professionals for legitimate advice and guidance.

The rise of AI therapist bots on Character.ai reflects a larger trend in the digital landscape, where technology is increasingly leveraged to address mental health challenges. While some caution against potential pitfalls, others see the bots as valuable tools to cope with the high demands on public mental health services.

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