Conversational artificial intelligence (CAI) presents many opportunities in the psychotherapeutic landscape-such as therapeutic support for people with mental health problems and without access to care. The adoption of CAI poses many risks that need in-depth ethical scrutiny. The objective of this paper is to complement current research on the ethics of AI for mental health by proposing a holistic, ethical, and epistemic analysis of CAI adoption. First, we focus on the question of whether CAI is rather a tool or an agent. This question serves as a framework for the subsequent ethical analysis of CAI focusing on topics of (self-) knowledge, (self-)understanding, and relationships. Second, we propose further conceptual and ethical analysis regarding human-AI interaction and argue that CAI cannot be considered as an equal partner in a conversation as is the case with a human therapist. Instead, CAI's role in a conversation should be restricted to specific functions.
Keywords: Artificial intelligence; agency; ethics; psychotherapy; therapeutic alliance.