Do you have moments where you feel as if nothing goes your way? In these moments we can lose sight of meaning and value and feel completely stuck. A helpful method known to help with this is CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy).

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)?

Group therapy sessions
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Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that focuses on a person’s cognitive distortions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviors, to improve emotional regulation.

For example, when something occurs in our life, we make decisions and judgments based on our past experiences. The reactional thoughts we immediately have are called automated thoughts. These automated thoughts are usually grounded and rational. However, when people are under extreme stress or exhaustion, these thoughts distort negatively. This issue can be solved by focusing on these thoughts to understand what is realistic and not. The repeated process of this can create a balance within our mental thoughts.

Still, this is not an easy process. It requires a trained professionals’ guidance to provide the insight and perspectives needed. In reality, there are not enough professionals to handle the rising demands of mental health assistance that are required.

Therefore, online sessions are becoming a popular way to provide CBT for those in need to increase the number of patients that can be taken care of. The effects of online versus in-person sessions have been an interest of study for researchers.

Online CBT Sessions

A lady interacting online through her computer
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Among the online CBT sessions, there is research particularly looking into how artificial intelligence (AI) might be helpful for facilitation.

A company divided their testers into 3 groups and tried CBT in the following different ways:

Group 1: An online CBT session with no other person involved. The user just answers questions and learns on their own without any feedback.

Group 2: The user receives advice through an AI capable of natural language processing. The AI will provide advice based on what the user has written and show empathy through the facial expressions of a woman that appears on the monitor. If the user is vague in their description, the AI asks to rewrite their answers.

Group 3: A control group where they do nothing.

What were the effects of these different methods?

The Surprising Effects of AI

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Results showed that Group 1 had the best immediate short-term results for relieving depression, but many did not stick to the sessions after a while. On the other hand, Group 2 had better results in the long run with a significant reduction in severely depressed patients.

Why would Group 2 have a better long-term outcome when there was no immediate effect?

Feedback Creates Motivation

online feedback
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A survey asked why people quit their online CBT sessions and most answered, “I don’t understand what I’m doing” or “I want feedback.”

In Group 2, the natural language processing AI was able to empathize with their users and gave feedback that they needed to rewrite their answers if the content was weak. This kind of feedback is thought to be the reason why users felt the motivation to continue.

Online CBT Sessions Have Low Immediate Effect

CBT sessions online
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There were low immediate improvements felt through online CBT sessions. Why is this? There are a few possible reasons:

  • There were limits to the natural language processing and the AI was not able to empathize with the user sufficiently
  • When users were asked to “rewrite,” it seemed like they were being corrected
  • The correction to rewrite answers wasn’t necessarily the best way to understand feelings

Find A CBT Session Fit For You

A woman happily interacting through her computer
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There are still improvements to be made, but CBT through AI has big potential to significantly improve symptoms of depression. If the AI evolves enough to empathize and give better advice, many people can benefit from its use.

It’s not that far into the future that our online technology will become essential in meeting our individual mental needs.


Mirai, S., Sekizawa, Y., & Takebayashi, Y. (2017, May 23–26). Can Artificial Intelligence Heal Human Hearts?:A randomized controlled trial on the effects of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy with natural language processing on depression [Presentation]. The 31st Annual Conference of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence, Aichi, Japan.

Cognitive behavioral therapy. (2016, September 8). National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

About the Author


As a writer, worked on many medical-related articles based on academic papers. Specializes in articles on mental health and stress care.

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