As with any new technology, artificial intelligence is drawing concern and skepticism from many therapists. It’s also drawing great enthusiasm from therapists who tend to be early adopters of new technologies. For all the promise that AI holds for future implementation, it’s reasonable to ask: What can artificial intelligence do for my therapy practice right now? Here, we look at three different places where AI can have an immediate impact on your therapy work.
Writing progress notes
Multiple companies offer AI-based software that will listen to psychotherapy sessions and create the first draft of a progress note. Lyssyn and Upheal are two examples. Of course, clients should give permission before the software is allowed to listen in. Providers still need to review the draft notes and make any needed adjustments. But the software, which has been trained on thousands of prior sessions and notes, holds the potential to make record-keeping for therapy a far less arduous process.
Saving a few minutes on a progress note is no small thing. Mental health providers routinely cite paperwork demands as a significant drain on their ability to serve clients. If AI saves four minutes per progress note for a therapist who does 1,000 sessions in a year, that amounts to more than 60 hours in saved time each year — recapturing a work week and a half.
For therapists in private practice who are responsible for marketing themselves, AI can be useful in drafting marketing messages and even developing full marketing plans. Artificial intelligence software has shown itself to be reasonably skilled at tasks like drafting content and even designing logos.
In 2021, Harvard Business Review published a detailed article on the growing role of AI in marketing. If you advertise your practice using digital ad platforms through Google, Microsoft, or some third-party agencies, AI is already assisting with ad placement. If you’ve allowed, the platforms also use AI to refine the specific content of your advertising. AI-based chatbots are also becoming increasingly common on business web sites, to answer common questions and address common functions like scheduling.
Private-practice therapists are not always great at generating marketing content themselves. For such therapists, AI can meaningfully transform your marketing efforts today. It can give those efforts a greater chance of success.
Finally, earlier this month Microsoft and Epic EHR announced a partnership that will bring Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI technology to Epic’s health records system. The partnership is intended to leverage AI to fill in gaps in medical records, reducing error rates. But among the functions that AI will serve is a specific one that therapists will appreciate: Drafting responses to client communications. The AI will draft responses on behalf of doctors and others involved in patient care. While I can’t lay claim to any insider knowledge here, it seems reasonable to presume it will not be long before such functionality comes to other practice management software.
Many therapists already use a smaller-scale version of AI in responding to client messages without even realizing it. Several large email providers offer some version of predictive text (also known as predictive typing), where the provider analyzes your past messages (and, depending on the specific software, may integrate an analysis of others’ similar messages) in an effort to predict the next few words you’re likely to type. Typically, those predicted words appear in gray, and you can accept them using the Tab key.
I regularly use this feature in both Gmail and Outlook. I find it to be fairly good at predicting what I’m planning to type next. When the software gets it right, it speeds up my typing. And importantly, when it gets it wrong, it doesn’t slow me down. I just keep typing what I was going to type anyway.
Some therapists express concern about the potential influence of AI on therapy practices. Most professional codes of ethics do not specifically address AI integrations, though existing standards for technology in general remain relevant. Of course, if any AI software is going to be listening in on sessions, it makes sense to include this in your data policies and practices. Clients should provide consent for the software to listen in. But these are addressable concerns. I’m eager to see these and other ways that AI can impact our work for the better. Used well, AI will allow therapists to focus more time and energy on direct client care.