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Can Large Language Models Support Psychotherapy?

Harnessing human and technological creativity as a therapeutic tool.

Key points

  • Jung's theory on creativity as a therapeutic tool aligns with LLMs' potential in mental health support.
  • LLMs create a nonjudgmental space for individuals to freely express emotions and thoughts.
  • Complementing traditional therapy, LLMs may provide innovative therapeutic approaches.
Source: DALL-E/OpenAI
A creative expression of Carl Jung by AI.
Source: DALL-E/OpenAI

Carl Jung's perspective on the therapeutic potential of creativity, particularly in the context of psychosis, underscores a fascinating insight into the human psyche. He suggested that channeling the chaotic energies and narratives that might consume an individual from within into creative endeavors could lead to a form of healing or integration. This idea dovetails intriguingly with the potential capabilities and applications of large language models (LLMs) in the realm of mental health and therapy.

LLMs, by their design, are adept at fostering creativity through their ability to generate, iterate, and expand upon ideas presented to them. This attribute may be harnessed in several therapeutic contexts to encourage individuals to express themselves more freely and creatively, potentially leading to significant psychological benefits, particularly when used in the context of professional supervision.

Facilitating Expression

One of the primary ways LLMs can facilitate creativity is by providing a nonjudgmental, endlessly patient, and responsive platform for individuals to express thoughts, emotions, and narratives that they might find difficult to articulate to another human. This expression can be therapeutic in itself, offering a sense of relief and understanding.

Writing and Storytelling

LLMs can assist in creative writing or storytelling, helping individuals shape their internal experiences into coherent narratives. This process can provide a sense of order and understanding to chaotic or distressing internal experiences. By externalizing these experiences through writing, individuals may gain new insights into their emotions and thought processes, potentially leading to a therapeutic effect.

Artistic Inspiration

Beyond text, LLMs can inspire visual art by generating descriptions, scenarios, or even direct visual art through integrations with other artificial intelligence (AI) systems designed for image creation. This multimodality application can be particularly beneficial for individuals who find visual expression more therapeutic or accessible than verbal communication.

Cognitive Reframing

LLMs can assist in cognitive reframing, a therapeutic technique where individuals learn to identify and change maladaptive thought patterns. By engaging in dialogues with an LLM, users can explore different perspectives on their problems, potentially leading to more adaptive ways of thinking.

Role-Playing and Simulation

Through role-playing scenarios facilitated by LLMs, individuals can explore various aspects of their psyche in a safe and controlled environment. This can be particularly useful in understanding and integrating different facets of one's identity or in practicing social interactions in a low-stakes setting.

Enhancing Mindfulness and Presence

Engagement with creative tasks, particularly recurrent iterative dialogues facilitated by LLMs, may enhance mindfulness and presence, encouraging individuals to focus on the present moment rather than ruminating on past or future anxieties. This mindful engagement can be inherently therapeutic.

Education and Skill Development

Finally, LLMs can provide educational content on creative techniques and psychological concepts, empowering individuals with the tools and knowledge to explore their creativity further and understand their mental processes better.

While LLMs cannot replace human therapists or the nuanced understanding of human psychology, they may offer a complementary tool that can enhance therapeutic outcomes through the facilitation of creative expression. The intersection of AI and psychology holds promising avenues for exploration, potentially leading to innovative therapeutic methodologies that leverage the unique capabilities of LLMs to foster creativity as a tool. And beyond the applications of LLMs in psychology, creativity and clinical-patient engagements offer a rich opportunity for advancing the overall medical history, which stands as a cornerstone of care.

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