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Conversational Artificial Intelligence in Psychotherapy: A New Therapeutic Tool or Agent?


Sedlakova, Jana; Trachsel, Manuel (2023). Conversational Artificial Intelligence in Psychotherapy: A New Therapeutic Tool or Agent? The American Journal of Bioethics, 23(5):4-13.

Abstract

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.

Abstract

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.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
08 Research Priority Programs > Digital Society Initiative
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Health Policy, Issues, ethics and legal aspects
Language:English
Date:May 2023
Deposited On:11 Apr 2022 07:46
Last Modified:28 Mar 2024 02:36
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1526-5161
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/15265161.2022.2048739
PubMed ID:35362368
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)