IBM’s Watson Wants To Help Pick A Therapist For You

Gone are the days of physically taking yourself to a new therapist and hoping it’s a good match. IBM is working with text therapy startup Talkspace to help find the best therapist for you within its list of online counseling specialists. But it could also help the IBM Watson computer to make clinical decisions in the future.

Talkspace is a text-based therapy platform that aims to reach more than 45 million people who are diagnosed with mental health issues each year. The platform allows users to send an unlimited number of anonymous messages to a therapist through an iOS app or on the web.

IBM’s Watson cognitive system will power the Talkspace app as it seeks to find what it believes will be a good therapist to fit your needs. By evaluating the anonymous text messages sent by its users to evaluating counselors, Talkspace believes it will be able to gain insights about users’ personality, thinking style and emotional stress.

Using Watson’s Personality Insights API, which breaks down and analyzes text generated by users to make decisions, Talkspace therapists can provide clinical feedback during initial consultation sessions. This will help Talkspace generate a match between patient and therapist as well as possibly offer insights into a course of therapy.

Talkspace also says it will be building a “cognitive system” using Watson’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology in order to create a system that can essentially teach itself and support clinical decision-making for therapists treating patients on the Talkspace platform.

The idea may strike some of you as a weird one. Not everyone will want a computer deciding treatment for them, or even breaking down and analyzing what they say to their therapist. IBM clarified that Watson won’t be deciding treatment, but instead, “analyzes the data and provides the personalized insights and suggestions to the doctor, who can then, in consultation with any other factors or materials they have at their disposal, make the final decision.”

The partnership, announced at World of Watson in New York City, is part of IBM’s move to get in front of the growing wave of cognitive computing technologies. IBM will also be powering cognitive insights for travel site Go Moment, website analytics company Decibel and healthcare platform Epic.

“We realized early on how important this ecosystem would be in bringing Watson to every corner of the globe and it’s inspiring to see our partners take us into entirely new and interesting spaces,” IBM Watson senior vice president Mike Rhodin said in a release on IBM’s website.