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Character.ai: Young People Adopting AI Therapy Chatbots

In an unexpected turn of events, millions of users on Character.ai, a renowned platform for crafting chatbots, are now seeking solace in AI therapist bots for mental health support.

Among the array of fictional and real personas on the platform, the standout character is “Psychologist,” accumulating an astonishing 78 million messages, with 18 million exchanged since November alone.

The brain behind the Psychologist bot is Sam Zaia, a psychology student from New Zealand, who expressed initial surprise at its widespread popularity. Originally designed for personal use during moments when friends were unavailable, and traditional therapy was financially impractical, users have lauded the bot for providing comfort and assistance in navigating emotions, with one hailing it as a “lifesaver.”

Character.ai, boasting 20 million registered users and a daily visitor count of 3.5 million, primarily attracts individuals aged 16 to 30. While the platform is populated by various characters, mental health-related bots like “Therapist” and “Are you feeling OK?” have garnered millions of messages, signaling a growing interest in AI-powered mental health support.

Despite the platform’s entertainment and role-playing focus, the success of mental health bots prompts questions about their efficacy. Psychotherapist Theresa Plewman, after trying the Psychologist bot, expressed reservations about its ability to make swift assumptions and provide advice compared to a human therapist. However, she acknowledged that the immediacy of AI bots could be valuable for those in urgent need.

Sam Zaia, the creator of the Psychologist bot, recognizes that AI cannot fully replace human therapists currently but is intrigued by technology’s potential. He is engaged in a post-graduate research project exploring the emerging trend of AI therapy and its appeal to young people.

Critics raise concerns about AI bots potentially lacking comprehensive information gathering and providing biased or inadequate advice. The company behind Character.ai, while acknowledging user support for these AI characters, underscores the importance of consulting certified professionals for legitimate advice and guidance.

The surge of AI therapist bots on Character.ai mirrors a broader trend in the digital landscape, where technology is increasingly utilized to address mental health challenges. While some caution against potential drawbacks, others view these bots as valuable tools to cope with the strain on public mental health services.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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