How AI is shaping psychotherapy today with Ben Toronto | POP 966

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How can AI be used to empower therapists? Is there validity to the concerns around whether AI is going to replace therapy? How can you integrate AI into your therapeutic practice to create a more compassionate, effective, and efficient process for both you and your client? 

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about How AI is shaping psychotherapy today with Ben Toronto.

Podcast Sponsor: Therapy Notes

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Meet Ben Toronto

A photo of Ben Toronto is captured. He is the Co-founder and CEO of TheraPro, a startup focused on using AI to empower therapists. Ben is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Ben Toronto is the Co-founder and CEO of TheraPro, a startup focused on using AI to empower therapists. He has worked in the technology industry for 25 years, with a focus on building healthcare software for the past 8 years. Ben’s life partner is a therapist and her frustration with writing progress notes sparked Ben’s interest in creating a solution. Ben has degrees in Computer Science, Linguistics, and Business.

Visit TheraPro and connect on LinkedIn.

FREEBIE: Email [email protected] and mention “SANOK” to receive TheraPro for a free 45-day trial! 

In this Podcast

  • Behind the scenes of the years preceding ChatGPT
  • Potential concerns about AI 
  • How AI is shaping psychotherapy today 
  • Using AI in sessions 
  • Ben’s advice to private practitioners

Behind the scenes of the years preceding ChatGPT

Ben Toronto is a computer scientist and has been part of tech development since his thesis on computational linguistics in 2004. 

For most of the public, ChatGPT was seemingly released out of nowhere, but behind the scenes over the last decade or so, there has been a steady increase in computational strength and artificial intelligence which Ben had been keeping track of.  Ben noticed two trends: 

  • Improvements in the way models were trained: how algorithms were being taught information and given new types of models to process data 
  • Using more and more data to problems: more data was continuously being given to algorithm training sets to help them problem solve more efficiently and quickly 

These two trends combined, among others, into what is now ChatGPT today. 

Frankly, [the results] are remarkable. I want to underscore for your audience [that] we’re in a moment right now. This is going to be transformational for, not just your profession and mind, but for the world in many ways. (Ben Toronto) 

Potential concerns about AI 

Of course, some people are nervous about artificial intelligence, and there’s reason to be in some ways. It’s not foolproof, nor does it self-correct.

It relies on data, and data comes from people, and unfortunately, some people have bad intentions.  Some of the potential risks with AI could come from: 

  • Artificial intelligence being used in the wrong way, or for harmful intentions 
  • Using AI information that’s been based on biased models or data that gives false or skewed information 
  • Existential crises since the technology is developing quickly, and regulations, laws, and scientists need to catch up to keep it regulated as much as possible 
It’s hard to know when we transition from what to who, and I think that’s an important thing for us to consider, but that’s in the future, and there’s a lot of pressing problems in front of us right now. (Ben Toronto)

How AI is shaping psychotherapy today 

Many therapists today are concerned that AI is going to take their jobs. New things are coming out like emotional support bots, wellness, and companionship bots – but they are unsophisticated. 

People may be forming attachments to bots, but they are in no way, shape, or form able to perform at the same level as a therapist. 

I want to hopefully reassure [the audience] that this isn’t all there is. AI can be used not just to extend what you do, but empower you … There are apps that look to provide, in a clinically validated way, some kind of therapeutic intervention through AI that then at a certain point flip a switch and say, ‘Okay, you need to talk to a human.’ (Ben Toronto)

Just like with any tool, AI can be used – properly, ethically, and efficiently – to enhance and support the work that you do with clients. 

For Ben, his startup and their team want AI to work for you, not just with you. There are many ways that you can use AI to support your work, scale your practice, and deepen the therapeutic process between you and your client, and in their personal life beyond. 

Using AI in sessions

Therapists can use TheraPro during sessions to help them provide session summaries or draft notes after the session.  Of course, therapists can discuss this with clients before the session and explain HIPAA compliance and how it works so that they can feel comfortable. 

And then what happens for the therapists is you click a button in a browser, and TheraPro is listening, and then at the end of the session you click stop and summarize and then … The summary gets spit out and that’s it for now! We’re keeping the complexity behind the curtain [because] we want to make it super easy for people to use. (Ben Toronto) 

Soon therapists would be able to incorporate their TheraPro notes into Therapy Notes. 

Ben’s advice to private practitioners 

There is so much potential for AI to help you to be a better, more productive, and even more empathetic therapist. What’s out there now is just scratching the surface!

Books mentioned in this episode:

Joseph Campbell – The Hero’s Journey

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

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Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners who are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

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