Couples seeking relationship counselling could soon be sharing their woes with a chatbot says Relate

COUPLES in crisis could soon be sharing problems with chatbots using artificial intelligence.

Relationship charity Relate says its live online service with counsellors provided 15,000 sessions last year.

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Artificial counsellors could replace the human touch[/caption]

But there was demand for twice that number, prompting calls for more “non-human interaction”. Relate chief Aidan Jones said of the online service: “Counsellors tell me that because it’s more anonymous people start to explain what their issue is faster than when in a room.”

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Relate counsellors provided 15,000 sessions last year[/caption]

He added: “We have to start to look at what can be done with a non-human interaction. AI can learn as it interacts with clients.”

Several US tech firms have developed automated counselling.

Woebot uses cognitive behavioural therapy for well-being coaching, and chatbot Tess uses text conversations to offer coping strategies.

Mr Jones said he did not want to replace the charity’s 1,500 counsellors but was keen to offer a choice of support.

Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, said trust in the therapist was key, adding: “It’s hard to see how a machine can replace that.”

Relate receives a 13 per cent rise in calls and a 58 per cent jump in website users every January after the festive break.

January 7, when many return to work, is the most common day to file for divorce.



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