MindMentor Computer-Based Psychotherapy

MindMentor provides completely automated, computer-based therapy at a remarkable discount; less than ten percent of what you would expect to pay a human therapist.

(MindMentor computer psychotherapist)

MindMentor was developed by two Dutch psychologists, Jaap Hollander and Jeffrey Wijnberg. Their intent was to imitate the kind of dialog between a real patient and therapist. The design is based on Eliza, a fifty-year-old program that was a quick success for AI theorists in the 1960's.

Eliza was written by Joseph Weizenbaum, who died earlier this month.

According to the two doctors who created MindMentor, forty-seven percent of it's patients reported their problems as resolved.

Traditional therapists don't think much of the Eliza method, which essentially parodies the method of a Rogerian therapist. This method is particularly well-suited to computer adaptation. Eliza would respond to the statement "My head hurts" with a statement like "Tell me why your head hurts."

SF writers thought about computer psychiatry before Eliza was written. In his 1964 novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Philip K. Dick creates a character named Dr. Smile. Dr. Smile is implemented in a manner similar to that of MindMentor; a remote computer manifests the character on a local device:

And there in the next room by the sofa sat a familiar suitcase, that of his psychiatrist Dr. Smile.

Barefoot, he padded into the living room, and seated himself by the suitcase; he opened it, clicked switches, and turned on Dr. Smile. Meters began to register and the mechanism hummed...

The mechanism which was the portable extension of Dr. Smile, connected by micro-relay to the computer itself in the basement level of Barney's own conapt building in New York, the Renown 33, tinnily declared, "Ah, Mr. Bayerson."
(Read more about Dr. Smile)

Readers may also remember Sigrid von Shrink from Frederik Pohl's 1970 novel Gateway.

The earliest reference I can think of is from the 1957 James Blish novel Cities in Flight; the fascinating City Fathers are machine psychologists with deep insight into citizens and passengers:

"Dead though they are, the machines aren't ignorant of human psychology - far from it. They know very well that some students respond better to reward than punishment, and that others have to be driven by fear. The second kind is usually the less intelligent, and they know that, too; how could they not know it after so many generations of experience. You're lucky they've put you in the first category."

Via Wired.

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