Flow chatbot therapist image

A chatbot therapist to treat depression has launched as recent figures show that NHS patients seeking help with their mental health are waiting more than eight weeks to see a doctor after their first appointment.

The chatbot therapist was developed by medical device company Flow, which, in June, launched a brain stimulation headset treatment for depression, the first and only medically approved at-home treatment of its kind in the UK and EU.

The chatbot therapist, called Flow, engages users with daily chat conversations and offers self-help techniques, mood tracking, curated videos, meditation and mental exercises. It helps users to learn why sleep, exercise, nutrition and meditation are the main pillars in recovering from depression – and gathers mood data to offer a personalised response modelled on behavioural therapy.

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You can see Flow in action here:

Available to download free on iOS, the chatbot therapist is based on the latest psychology and neuroscience research, and was developed by clinical psychologists and machine learning experts. An Android version will be available in October 2019.

According to NHS England, nearly one in four adults in the UK are affected by a mental illness.

In addition, the Department of Health says economic costs of mental illness in England is estimated at £105.2 billion annually. One in three work sickness notes handed out by GPs are for mental health reasons, including depression, notes the NHS.

“Accessibility and early intervention in depression is crucial,” said Daniel Mansson, Clinical Psychologist, CEO and Co-Founder of Flow. “The ‘always-on’ source of therapy provided by Flow ensures people get the help they need as quickly as possible. Flow can provide anonymity without the fear of being judged by others. This is great as some people feel anxious when it comes to talking about their depression to another human.”

To maximise the chance of recovery, Flow can be used in conjunction with the Flow brain stimulation headset.

Flow chatbot therapist image

Randomised controlled trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Journal of Psychiatry show that brain stimulation, of the type used in the Flow headset, had a similar impact to antidepressants but with fewer and less-severe side effects.

Flow joins a growing number of mental health chatbots, including Woebot and Wysa, which are playing an increasing role in the mental health landscape. Whilst Woebot and Wysa use a cognitive behavioural approach to change the way people think, Flow has one goal: to reduce clinical depression based on well-grounded science.

Flow is starting talks with the NHS to have its brain stimulation headset available on prescription.

The company recently announced an investment of £1.2 million by Khosla Ventures to roll out its offering across Europe, introduce the Flow headset to healthcare clinics in the UK, and fund clinical studies.

Flow is a physical and behavioural at-home treatment for depression which comprises a brain stimulation headset and therapy app. It was developed from the fields of clinical psychology, neuroscience and innovative technology including machine learning.

Flow empowers and motivates individuals to take control and self-manage their depression with effective, non-pharmacological, digital alternatives.

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