ChatGPT shows promise for effective psychotherapy

New York:  Open AI’s ChatGPT-4 can accurately generate individualised personal narratives based on stream-of-consciousness thoughts and demographic details, two studies have suggested.

Previous research has shown that personal narratives — the stories we tell ourselves about our lives — can play a critical role in identity and help us make sense of the past and present. It is also known that by helping people reinterpret narratives, therapists can guide patients toward healthier thoughts and behaviours.

To explore, researchers from the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania tested the ability of ChatGPT-4 to generate individualised personal narratives.

The study findings, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, showed that 25 of the 26 participants rated the AI-generated responses as completely or mostly accurate, 19 rated the narratives as very or somewhat surprising, and 19 indicated they learned something new about themselves.

“This is a rare moment in the history of scientific psychology: Artificial intelligence now promises much more effective psychotherapy and coaching,” said Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology, and director of the Positive Psychology Center.

For each participant, the researchers fed ChatGPT-4 recorded stream-of-consciousness thoughts, which was likened to diary entries with thoughts as simple as “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired.”

In a separate study published concurrently in The Journal of Positive Psychology, the team fed five narratives rated “completely accurate” into ChatGPT-4, asked for specific interventions, and found that the chatbot generated highly plausible coaching strategies and interventions.

“Since coaching and therapy typically involve a great deal of initial time spent fleshing out such an identity, deriving this automatically from 50 thoughts represents a major savings,” the researchers said.

The team found that ChatGPT was able to, with just 50 stream-of-consciousness thoughts and very basic demographic information, come up with a highly accurate and detailed personal narrative.

“This could be a tool for helping people gain self-insight. We see this as something that can be used in the therapeutic context, not as something that would replace a therapist,” the researchers said.

“This research is exploratory; there is absolutely a need to continue the research and deploy this with coaches,” they added.


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