Discovery of conversational best practices in online mental health support

Project Type(s):

Principal Investigator(s):

Millions of people lack access to mental health treatment due to barriers such as limited therapist availability, long wait times, high cost, and stigma. The COVID-19 pandemic has problematically increased demand for treatment while decreasing access. Because the internet is widely available, many people first turn to the internet for mental health support, giving rise to massive online psychotherapy, counseling and peer-to-peer support platforms such as Ginger and Talklife. However, not all conversations lead to improvement and may miss opportunities to help or even make things worse as platforms struggle to keep up with the increasing demands and lack methods for evaluating and promoting high-quality conversations.

This project seeks to improve the quality and scalability of online mental health support through real-time, evidence-based conversation feedback. We will leverage and analyze datasets of support interactions and associated outcomes across millions of individuals that use the partnering online mental health platforms at Ginger and Talklife. Our goal is to develop and pilot-test artificial intelligence methods that provide supporters on these platforms with practical just-in-time feedback and training. If successful, at least three benefits will follow our work. First, millions of help seekers using partnering mental health platforms Ginger and Talklife will receive higher quality responses through, for example, an expression of higher empathy. Second, those providing help will gain expertise faster and with less distress. Third, platforms and researchers will discover conversational best practices which can then be used to improve helper training and quality evaluation.

Project Period:
September 1, 2021 August 31, 2022

Funding Type(s):

Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions

Geographic Area(s):

Practice Type(s):
Online/remote/apps/social media

Patient Population(s):

Targeted Condition(s):
Anxiety, Depression