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And I think a lot of that gets missed without that face-to-face interaction," she said. Talkspace has done some of its own preliminary research that suggests it does.
One study they conducted found that when compared with people enrolled in face-to-face therapy, people enrolled in text-based therapy experienced equally positive outcomes.
There will be no couches, no tissues, no awkward first-date-esque meetings. After all, they say, most of our daily interactions already happen via text. Talkspace is spearheading this change by linking people with therapists they can talk to via text. Therapists who use the service agree that text-based therapy has its advantages.
(The app also recently began offering real-time video chat, but some 80% of users use the texting feature only.) "Roni Frank, Talkspace's co-founder and head of clinical services, told me. Some of them include having clients who feel more comfortable because they don't have to sit in a room with a therapist.
If you've ever massaged the details of a story to make yourself look better or chosen to hide other information that might make you look worse, you've engaged in what Gratch calls "impression management." It's a phase therapists spend lots of time getting past so they can get to a place where clients are being honest with them and letting them help. To Gratch, the future of therapy lies between these two important things: anonymity and rapport.
"People are more honest on web forms," says Gratch."We had this empathetic listening that draws people out to make them say more things, plus a feeling of anonymity," said Gratch.To make Sensei, Gratch and his team spent years studying how people convey to each other that they're interested in what another person is saying, something called "active listening." They looked at what characteristics lead someone to say "Uhuh" in a conversation, for example, or "I'm sorry," as well as what sort of hand gestures we tend to use and when.At worst, it's an approach that's unmoored in reality, some experts say.
And if it is at all indicative of the potential limitations a bot-based therapy platform might have, text-based therapy still has several weaknesses.
Jumana Grassi, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works on the text-a-therapist platform Talkspace, told me she sees the app for most people as more of a gateway to face-to-face therapy than an end point.