The Psychotherapist of 2040?

One possibility

Posted Jun 24, 2019

pxhere, public domain
Source: pxhere, public domain

Yes, psychotherapists, indeed all sorts of counselors, will likely still be in demand in 2040. That's because any job requiring subjective judgment is tough to automate. Plus, people will always want to talk with someone about their problems. But the work of a psychotherapist in 2040 will likely change dramatically. Here’s one possibility:

In advance of the first session, the therapist (or client-customized holographic virtual 3D counselor) will receive a data file on the client consisting of the client’s brain scan, the results of a cotton-swab DNA test and a blood test, plus the client's answers to a well-validated online questionnaire. Based on all that, the file will contain artificial-intelligence-derived suggested counseling strategies such as a structure for the first session, including questions the therapist might ask and comments s/he might make. The recommendations may also include a drug customized to the client's genetics and physiology.

At the beginning of the session—and with the ever-worsening traffic, it's ever more likely to be on video—the therapist will listen and ask questions much as what occurs today except that it will be informed by the aforementioned AI recommendations. At one or more points during the session or afterward, the therapist will enter keywords and phrases into the computer to gain additional AI-derived insights, which the therapist can elect to incorporate into subsequent comments, questions, and homework assignments.

AI-assisted therapy should improve efficacy while reducing cost—fewer and shorter sessions should be needed. Typical might be a one-hour first session followed by a half-hour session followed by a few 15-minute check-ins of decreasing frequency.

Despite the reduced cost, psychotherapy will be affordable to the relative few because automation, offshoring, and temping will likely continue to hollow-out the middle class. So I see third-party paying being the norm. Likely the payer will be the government, as it appears that the U.S. will be moving to single-payer health care in light of the changing demographics, media bias toward socialism and, in turn, changing voting patterns.

We're likely more than two decades away from when patients can get effective psychotherapy completely from an app and a drug, although I wouldn’t bet my life on that. Already in 2019, mental health apps such as Woebot, Sanvello (formerly Pacifica), and therapist-assisted Deprexis are popular, highly rated by consumers, and are demonstrating good efficacy in randomized trials. And of course, apps are dramatically less expensive than a therapist while providing 24/7/365 access, wherever you are. Future therapists and other counselors: It couldn’t hurt to have a Plan B.

I read this aloud on YouTube.