Recently, a smartphone app received an award. It allows its users to obtain psychological support through a chatbot. The latter’s vocation is to replace the therapist between two appointments.
An application to take over outside the sessions
People who use a psychiatrist would dream of being able to reach their therapist anytime in order to discuss their problems. Obviously, this is totally impossible. However, a recent mobile application could represent an interesting alternative. It is My Sherpa, having received an award during the Scientific Committee of the Psychiatry Congress l’Encéphale 2021. Note that the application does not offer to completely replace the psychiatrist. However, the chatbot (conversational robot) has the role of relaying between two meetings. This psychological support therefore allows the patient to wait for the next session with his therapist.
The term “sherpa” usually refers to an ethnic group originally from Tibet. It is also a common name, denoting porters and guides assisting climbers on the Himalayan peaks. In the case of the application, the picture is: helping the patient to climb the high mountains of anguish, anxiety and depression.
Usual therapy techniques
Having already been the subject of over 100,000 downloads, the My Sherpa application is the result of the collaboration of several psychiatrists and psychologists. These professionals directly took into account the requests from their patients. They sometimes consider the delays too long between two appointments or do not dare to disturb the therapist outside the sessions. Some patients also want to be able to “work” on their anxiety or phobia between two appointments. And that’s how the app was born.
In practice, the chatbot first asks the patient questions. The answers will define the proposed course, consisting of exercises and other activities. Each of the methods applied comes from cognitive therapy techniques and behavioral that professionals usually use. The first step is to adapt to the emotional and physical state of the patient. Then, the application accompanies the latter on a daily basis as part of the chosen program. Along the way, there may be a question of adjustments with the patient’s consent. Its agreement is also necessary in order to share the data with the therapist.
An important clarification: My Sherpa is rather energy intensive and therefore requires a full battery in order to carry out the conversation. Finally, the application was initially downloadable for free before going to 5.99 euros per month. Finally, professionals want make it totally free. Discussions are also underway with Social Security to obtain reimbursement.