Many people have asked me if I don’t feel threatened as a therapist with the rising of AI.
Sitting with this question, I notice that there is a mix of feelings present in my body.
AI is amazing, and the utilization of AI can have major benefits for our society. It can free up the time used for repetitive tasks that do not involve feelings, sensations, and a physical body. This will allow humanity to focus on what we are good at and what we are here to do. So I believe AI can help us to grow and fulfill a higher level of purpose.
Regarding therapy, there is a lot of trust in me that the role of personal, face-to-face psychotherapy will always exist. However, as a therapist, I have to realize that I am challenged to develop the parts in me where I, as a person, am superior to AI, e.g., having empathy.
What is psychotherapy
As a body-oriented therapist, I work with both my body and the clients. I feel my sensations and explore the client’s somatic experiences from there. So a lot of empathy, as well as body, breath, and brainwork, is used in body psychotherapy.
In my sessions, we work a lot with transference. Transference is a projection onto me by the client, and I detect this using the sensations in my body. Working with transference, I sometimes step into the role of the person that is projected on me. Being that person, feeling the energy and expressing from there.
In my line of psychotherapy, I also work with countertransference, providing it is objectified and constructive to the process the client is in. Countertransference is a response in my system to what the client says or does. It comes from my past traumas and experience. Since AI does not have a past, how will it work with countertransference?
AI probably has lots of knowledge of the concept of transference and countertransference, but if it starts working with that, it will feel like working with a therapist who is continuously in their head. For body psychotherapy (and I believe for any form of therapy), a connection from heart to heart is needed.
A body is needed
I don’t believe AI can replace personal therapy. To some degree, it might be able to coach a client on a behavioral level, but that will be it for now. I respect that this comes from the therapy’s perspective and might be colored by my stubborn brain, which refuses to surrender to the idea of AI therapy :-)
What is true is that a huge part of me greatly fears that organizations like insurance companies and health services will start reducing costs by using AI therapists to do, for example, a form of CBT or that in-house coaches of large companies will probably be AI in a few years.
The main underlying fear is that many people ‘will settle’ with this because that is what they are offered or can afford. The thought of this sends shivers down my spine. We even might come to a point where personal therapy is only available to the more resourced and elite.
I opened an account with OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, and I was astounded by the possibilities it provided.
For example, I asked ChatGPT to write me a very personal poem after providing some details about myself, and I have to say; part of me felt really moved reading it.
I also asked OpenAI to give me a two-sentence therapy session to heal my depression, and it complied. I received 'help' in two sentences.
This is where I feel that AI drastically failed.
If a client would ask me if we could shorten the session to ten minutes, I would be curious. I would ask the client what the motivation is and if there were resistance. I would welcome that resistance and work with that. Give this resistance a voice and space to express. None of that with AI.
For now, AI will suggest seeking help from a professional therapist as soon as I go further into the therapy and start to share deeper emotions or distrust. That feels a bit like a relief, but how long does it take before AI trusts itself to be the therapist?
Yes, AI learns, but who teaches AI how to respond to human emotions? Does AI get its knowledge from interactions on social media? Is it fed everything on human history, and does it learn how to relate from that?
I was told that AI was fed all available knowledge up to 2021. To the best of my belief, we didn't do that well in the past two centuries, especially if I look at the known and written history (feminine oppression, religious crusades, world wars, political dictatorships, the interaction and 'mask' behavior on social media, and so on...). How does AI distinguish constructive from destructive behavior? Which of the two is it going to use in its therapy?
These are all significant questions to consider before deciding what kind of help to offer those needing it most.
But a therapist is a biased person
Yes, the therapist is a biased person with a background, and so is AI. Then again, a therapist who takes their profession seriously also has supervision, where these biased interactions are processed.
But for me, the most important thing is that a therapist is a person with a heart, empathy, and compassion who acts out of love for their clients and for the world. To me, that is the most important thing that I look for in professional mental help.
How do you feel about AI, and what is most important for you in therapy?