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A virtual therapist app is being used to treat people with depression

The Flow app connects users to a chatbot to help those on the waiting list for therapy

It’s no surprise that with NHS therapy waiting lists of up to two years, the prospect of digital healthcare is looking more attractive. While there has been a number of apps on the market that connect people to licensed therapists, like Talkspace and BetterHelp, these apps are still fairly new, and some medical professionals have argued that there is not enough research to support them.

But a group of scientists in Malmö, Sweden have created a government-approved virtual therapist (basically, a chatbot) that aims to help people struggling with their mental health while waiting to be seen by a medical professional. Called Flow, the free app – created by a team of clinical psychologists – is allegedly based on current psychology and neuroscience research, and engages users in daily conversations, while offering self-help techniques, mood tracking features, meditation, mental exercises, and curated videos.

“The ‘always-on’ source of therapy provided by Flow ensures people get the help they need as quickly as possible,” said Daniel Mansson, co-Founder of Flow, in a press release. “Flow can provide anonymity without the fear of being judged by others. This is great as some people feel anxious when it comes to talking about their depression to another human.”

The virtual therapist guides users through 18 ‘sessions’ on why sleep, exercise, nutrition, and meditation is important when recovering from depression. The chatbot can be used alongside a Flow headset, a behavioural therapy brain stimulator that allegedly treats depression without the need for medication. The company is currently in talks with the NHS to make the headset available on prescription.

While the prospect of an algorithm treating us for depression sounds pretty dystopian, read our deep-dive into the truth of the rise of counselling apps here.