Overcome Depression: The New Computer -Cognitive Treatment
May 20, 2002 6:41 AM   Subscribe

Overcome Depression: The New Computer -Cognitive Treatment Overcoming Depression is the world's first self-educative computer program for understanding, dealing with, and preventing depression using a unique dialogue mode that allows you to express yourself freely in your own words and that responds in meaningful every language characteristic of a therapeutic context. So much for the personal therapeutic process. My question is - can this program prescribe meds??!??
posted by gloege (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This would be a helpful adjunct to the therapeutic process but a damn sad replacement for human interaction.

Nonverbal behavior of human therapists has a potential downside. Their tones of voice can sound negative, and their facial expressions can be frowns as well as smiles, reflecting boredom as well as interest, and anger as well as acceptance.

Wow. Kinda like real life.

I've been treated twice for depression. As much as I hated dragging my ass to see a psychiatrist, it was beneficial because it forced me to face the world on its own terms; something that I avoided for a long time. Had this been around 10 years ago, I would have used it for sure. But I'd still plop down my $50 for an hour of 1 on 1 therapy.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:06 AM on May 20, 2002


"Overcoming Depression is an MS-DOS program and will run on any IBM compatible computer with at least 6MB of hard disk space available."
it can't even BLUEscreen. how depressing.
posted by quonsar at 7:11 AM on May 20, 2002


What makes you think I prescribe meds you?
posted by greensweater at 7:36 AM on May 20, 2002


i'm kind of skeptical of this program. we have a tough time with natural language processing as it is (and i mean truly natural language, not merely the grammatically correct).

some of their "kudos":

"Despite my initial skepticism, the program was so helpful that I now keep printouts of my sessions in a locked file... I was impressed by its ability to comment and respond in natural language... surprizingly personal and insightful" Kathleen McAuliffe, SELF Magazine, July, 1991.

"I have to admit I was intiially skeptical...

in fact, most of those quotes are from the very early '90s, which i find odd. from their objections and misconceptions section, the authors claim that a critique against the program is the asserion that "No nonverbal communication is possible with a program." they're responding to a critique that computers only respond verbally? are all computers like HAL?

this program seems like a real shady sort of thing. it may end up being as insightful as dr. sbaitso was for DOS. of course, for $39.95, i suppose that's not such a bad deal.
posted by moz at 8:32 AM on May 20, 2002


Based on material including a "corpus of 70,000 words from 35 depressed women who described their life situations ..."

The "responses are ordinary language expressions of three syntactic and five semantic types ... Questions, Requests, and Assertions .... Beliefs, Causes, Feelings,. Desires, and Actions."

The formula sounds reasonable enough, as is the price. But alas, the responses would lack the quirkiness and unpredictablity of MeFi posts. Any satisfied users here?
posted by sheauga at 8:38 AM on May 20, 2002


There are actually a fair number of "overcoming depression" type workbooks that use cognitive therapy as a base. Generally speaking, they're not meant to replace regular therapy sessions and medications, but to supplement.

One of the biggest problems with chronic depression is that people get caught in these spirals of self doubt. (Anyone who's ever been chronically depressed knows what I'm talking about.) Programs like this are supposed to help you modify those paths of thinking a bit... get you back on track, so to speak.
posted by ph00dz at 8:52 AM on May 20, 2002


Remember the "Who's Your MeFi Twin" test a week or so ago? Ironically, and completely related, this was my twin.

I need a drink.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:09 AM on May 20, 2002


" Programs like this are supposed to help you modify those paths of thinking a bit... get you back on track, so to speak."

No it seems what this program wants to do is take the human element out of the therapy process which I do not feel can be done. Psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to handle mental illness, depression and dysfunctions. No program in the world can handle all the mental quirks a typical human mind can throw at it - how can it support a mind that is ill??
posted by gloege at 9:33 AM on May 20, 2002


greensweater: I got it.
posted by autonia at 9:44 AM on May 20, 2002


ok, skomsvold - put down the keyboard and step away from the... never mind.
posted by quonsar at 9:47 AM on May 20, 2002


Weizenbaum's fear was that, despite artificial intelligences' inability to fully understand or sympathize with the human condition, society would be all to ready to entrust artificial intelligences with the task of managing human affairs.

Hmmm, thanks for that link, autonia, certainly clarified this thread, well maybe greensweater did that :)
posted by bittennails at 10:30 AM on May 20, 2002


NOTE: At times, the dialogue mode may make mistakes in interpretation due to the current rudimentary state of the art of computer understanding of conversational language. These grammatical glitches can be easily forgiven by the charitable user.
Har.
I can't imagine, though, anything that would be less helpful than having this "dialogue" with a machine:

Program: We were talking about your depressed feelings. What else can you tell me about them?
User: I have been down in the dumps now for six months.
Program: It must be a burden to feel so depressed.
Use: It is. I feel like I'm drowning in a swamp.
Program: What in particular depresses you?
User: Mornings. I can't get out of bed in the morning.
Program: It must be hard to get up when you have nothing to look forward to.
User: Right. I hate the idea of going to work.
Program: What in particular don't you like about your work?
User: I have a dead-end job. I don't know which way to turn.
Program: What makes you feel you can't do anything about
your situation?
User: I feel helpless to change anything.
Program: Some of your feeling of helplessness comes from a misconception that there is nothing you can do on your own to improve your condition.

posted by jokeefe at 11:00 AM on May 20, 2002


While the program's output may seem pointless to those of you who haven't spent a lifetime in depression's grip, the perspective is different for some. Some people have spent significant portions of their life viewing the world thru the tainted-glasses of self-loathing. Add in some psychologist-related trauma (the program's website mentions as a "benefit" the inability of the program to sexually abuse a patient, something which can't be said for human therapists with the same level of confidence), plus the percieved objectiveness of the computer... I can see it being an effective starting tool for someone. It might help them get to a point where they have regained the ability to discuss their life with someone else. Some depressed people are very aware of their downward spiral, but unable to reach out for help, due to intense internal beliefs that they are

1. unhelpable
2. anyone who claims to want to help has an ulterior motive

And to think, just yesterday, I was thinking about writing a
conversational-bot to help people who don't attempt to make new friends, because they feel too insecure about talking to people, so they could "practice" conversation at home.
posted by nomisxid at 11:41 AM on May 20, 2002


so they could "practice" conversation at home.

If you are doing this, in my opinion, you are not depressed, you are flipping crazy.
posted by bittennails at 11:50 AM on May 20, 2002


What's so crazy about giving reserved, introverted types a tool for practicing their conversation skills? It sounds like a great idea to me.
posted by Fenriss at 1:53 PM on May 20, 2002


Sitting in a room, talking to a person who isn't there...just plain crazy.

Sitting in a room, talking to people who aren't there, thru blue...confirmed.
posted by bittennails at 1:59 PM on May 20, 2002


Being afflicted with what might fairly be described as "crippling" depression, for the bulk of my life--I've come to the conclusion that interpersonal therapuetic methods of dealing with it are, essentially, fruitless.
I've always wished I had enough dough to hire a Marine Corps drill instructor to follow me around for about a month instead...

I wholeheartedly believe that depression is, in large part, owing to a disruption of the ability to 'get out' of your own head and create action instead. Having somebody there to sternly remind you to stay engaged and translate those thoughts and emotions into productive action--that has always seemed like the salvation I needed from the impulse to slip away, into myself.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 2:39 PM on May 20, 2002


Having been depressed briefly, I'd say that difficulty in taking action is not a cause but a symptom of depression. When I was depressed, just leaving the house seemed like an insurmountable process of half a dozen or so steps. It just seemed like too much work, so I stayed indoors a lot.

After I received treatment for my depression, I was surprised to discover that leaving the house stopped being an involved process in itself and receded to an almost invisible, unconscious step in other activities. This is what most people refer to as "normal."
posted by kindall at 5:35 PM on May 20, 2002


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