An Artificial Therapist (Manage Your Life Online) to Support the Mental Health of Youth: Co-Design and Case Series

Aimee-Rose Wrightson-Hester, Georgia Anderson, Joel Dunstan, Peter M McEvoy, Christopher J Sutton, Bronwyn Myers, Sarah Egan, Sara Tai, Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, Wai Chen, Tom Gedeon, Warren Mansell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The prevalence of child and adolescent mental health issues is increasing faster than the number of services available, leading to a shortfall. Mental health chatbots are a highly scalable method to address this gap. Manage Your Life Online (MYLO) is an artificially intelligent chatbot that emulates the method of levels therapy. Method of levels is a therapy that uses
curious questioning to support the sustained awareness and exploration of current problems.
Objective: This study aimed to assess the feasibility and acceptability of a co-designed interface for MYLO in young people aged 16 to 24 years with mental health problems.
Methods: An iterative co-design phase occurred over 4 months, in which feedback was elicited from a group of young people (n=7) with lived experiences of mental health issues. This resulted in the development of a progressive web application version of MYLO that could be used on mobile phones. We conducted a case series to assess the feasibility and acceptability of MYLO in 13 young people over 2 weeks. During this time, the participants tested MYLO and completed surveys including clinical outcomes and acceptability measures. We then conducted focus groups and interviews and used thematic analysis to obtain feedback on MYLO and identify recommendations for further improvements.
Results: Most participants were positive about their experience of using MYLO and would recommend MYLO to others. The participants enjoyed the simplicity of the interface, found it easy to use, and rated it as acceptable using the System Usability Scale. Inspection of the use data found evidence that MYLO can learn and adapt its questioning in response to user input. We found a large effect size for the decrease in participants’ problem-related distress and a medium effect size for the increase in their self-reported tendency to resolve goal conflicts (the proposed mechanism of change) in the testing phase. Some patients
also experienced a reliable change in their clinical outcome measures over the 2 weeks.
Conclusions: We established the feasibility and acceptability of MYLO. The initial outcomes suggest that MYLO has the potential to support the mental health of young people and help them resolve their own problems. We aim to establish whether the use of MYLO leads to a meaningful reduction in participants’ symptoms of depression and anxiety and whether these are maintained over time by conducting a randomized controlled evaluation trial.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere46849
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • mental health; conversational agents; chatbots; young people; acceptability; feasibility; co-design; artificial therapist; artificial intelligence; youth; child; adolescent; chatbot; Manage Your Life Online; MYLO; support; mobile phone

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