DDN Sept 2021 September 2021 DDN Magazine - Page 16


Chatbots are an untapped opportunity for helping people in recovery , say Lisa Ogilvie , Julie Prescott and Jerome Carson

A friendly voice


hatbots are nonhuman agents , programmed using artificial intelligence ( AI ) to talk to a person as if a reallife conversation is taking place . It ’ s common to visit a website and be greeted with an invitation to chat about its commodities – whether suggesting products , offering technical support , or assessing customer satisfaction , chatbots have established their place in assuming a role traditionally undertaken by humans .
Healthcare is no exception . Here chatbots have been used to educate , diagnose , and support a technically savvy and demographically diverse population . The use of chatbots in addiction services has yet to be appreciated however , with research showing little traction in this area in the last five years . This is contrary to the upward trend seen in other areas of healthcare , for example with anxiety , depression , and obesity . This gap is perhaps most surprising given the target population and model of interaction offered – interaction that ’ s free of judgement and prejudice and that can reach people reticent to openly discuss
their problems . This gap presents an untapped opportunity , a blank canvas for developing chatbots to serve those needing support with drug and alcohol addiction , including those in recovery .
POINT OF NEED It is here we introduce Foxbot , a recovery friend . Foxbot was born from the idea to personify the online delivery of recovery interventions – interventions that combine recovery knowledge with positive psychology , and concepts from positive computing , to use technology to improve wellbeing . The basic design requirements for Foxbot were to be friendly and easy to form a connection with , to allow users to direct their own experience based on what they ’ re facing and how they ’ re feeling , and to provide a fresh , accessible , and engaging way of supporting people in recovery .
Foxbot ’ s purpose is to help people at their point of need by supporting them with some of the common difficulties encountered in recovery . Foxbot achieves this by offering suggestions , and quick and easy interventions , that can be used and re-used to bolster recovery . Unlike more conventional chatbots that form part of a larger
‘ It ’ s common to visit a website and be greeted with an invitation to chat .. Chatbots have established their place in assuming a role traditionally undertaken by humans .’
online strategy to promote or sell products and services , Foxbot ’ s intentions are entirely altruistic . Foxbot ’ s goal is to connect with and understand what people in recovery are commonly challenged with and respond with an intervention that can help them in the present moment .
Feeling supported through connection and understanding is highly valued in recovery , so these characteristics were considered rudimentary to Foxbot ’ s design , and embedded through the content of his knowledge base and the
relaxed style of communication he ’ s programmed to use . It was decided that if Foxbot was to be a genuine and successful recovery friend , he should exhibit his own character strengths – social intelligence , self-regulation , gratitude , humour , and creativity . Social intelligence for fluent social function and mature judgement ; self-regulation for limitless patience and satisfaction with friendly relationships ; gratitude to express positive emotions and optimistic prosocial behaviour ; humour to promote positive mood and endurance , and creativity for his novel delivery of recovery interventions . These signature strengths were programmed into Foxbot ’ s communication patterns to enable him to support people who wish to talk about things like having cravings , being in a bad mood , needing a reality check on what it means to be in addiction , having been triggered , or looking for a recovery boost .
COMMON EXPERIENCE The interventions delivered by Foxbot take common experiences from recovery and amalgamate them with positive psychology theory to offset and enhance the user ’ s current frame of mind . For example , if someone tells Foxbot