Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Many Behavioral Professionals?


Davis Luxton, Ph.D. is a researcher who examines the intersection of technology and psychology. In one of his recent articles, the abstract begins:

This article reviews developments in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and their current and prospective applications in clinical psychological practice. Some of the principal AI assisted activities reviewed include clinical training, treatment, psychological assessment, and clinical decision making. A concept for an integrated AI-based clinician system is also introduced.”

All this may seem innocuous, but when we read the next few lines, our collective blood pressure may rise: 

Issues associated with AI in the context of clinical practice, the potential for job loss among mental health professionals, and other ramifications associated with the advancement of AI technology are discussed. The advancement of AI technologies and their application in psychological practice have important implications that can be expected to transform the mental health care field. 

Wait a second. There’s a “potential for job loss among mental health professionals?”

Those who’ve been keeping track of artificial intelligence (AI) have been aware of the tremendous gains made in the field in the last handful of years. Since the early days of Eliza, the handwriting was on the wall. It has been clear that computers will continue to specialize and eventually, replace many professionals whose skills can be replicated and programmed. While health care professionals like to believe that the essential ingredients in healthcare are the professionals themselves, it is already clear that apps can motivate and track some behaviors far better than even the most skilled of professionals.

On a more positive note, Dr. Luxton does a great job outlining areas of future growth for behavioral professionals and that such growth isn’t likely to be in traditional arenas. Clearly, the future of behavioral and mental health is not just in maintaining the status quo with psychotherapy. 

Rather, Luxton argues that behavioral and mental health professionals have a large role to play in the development, evaluation and ethical use of AI technologies. Professionals with a background or penchant for technology are going to be in high demand.

Read the full article in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice for details. It was just released on November 11, 2013 and is entitled, Artificial Intelligence in Psychological Practice: Current and Future Applications and Implications.

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