Human Connection Will Always Matter: AI From A Counselling Perspective

  “AI is a Child of Humanity” T Panova

This week someone asked me why at my age I am so interested in AI. There are so many reasons, but it is mainly because I care about humanity. I want to learn so that I have a better understanding for my children, your children and my future grandchildren. Besides we are never too old to learn and now is the opportune time to do so.

As a Psychologist and former School Counsellor, I hope that you will explore resources and information that will guide you on a journey to understanding the complex world of AI. More importantly, I hope that you will bring humanity into all your conversations when it comes to AI. I believe that the therapeutic alliance will be more essential than ever before. AI won’t be able to connect the way a counsellor or therapist can. AI won’t be able to help in crisis situations. AI is not human although some may begin to treat it so. The counselling relationship is key and will always matter when it comes to being a helping professional. AI will most likely be used to augment and enhance counselling processes, so understanding how to utilize it will be of the utmost importance.

AI has the potential to impact an individual’s well-being, privacy, and autonomy. As counsellors, it is crucial to address the ethical implications of AI and ensure that its development, implementation, and use align with ethical standards. As counsellors and therapists our ethical standards will need to be revised.

Discussing AI from a counselling perspective will allow for a critical examination of its potential benefits and risks, fostering informed decision-making and responsible use now and in the future. Throughout these months in ETMOOC2 for which I am extremely grateful, I have been doing a lot of reading, discussing and thinking about AI. I hope that you too will begin exploring and learning. We are just at the beginning stages of paying attention and learning how AI will impact all of us. 

AI technology will most likely have psychological effects on individuals. For example, chatbots or virtual assistants designed to provide emotional support may impact the therapeutic relationship between clients and human counsellors. There is no way to predict how and what impact this will have. Time will tell, but we will need to assist clients who develop a trusting relationship with an AI instead of a human and the impacts that could potentially have on their therapeutic outcomes.

Addressing AI from a counselling perspective will allow for the exploration of the potential benefits and drawbacks of incorporating AI into therapeutic settings and school settings . We will need to consider the psychological impact on clients and students in the near future. How will you address these issues?

How will AI gather personal data, analyze emotional expressions, or even provide mental health assessments accurately?  It is important to discuss the potential impact of AI on emotional well-being and mental health, ensuring that AI systems are designed and used in ways that promote individuals’ psychological well-being. There is much to consider when it comes to AI.

How will AI enhance your counselling process?

Will AI help, harm or heal?

What part will you play in making a difference when it comes to AI?

How will you keep up and pay attention to the ethical considerations?

Will AI ever be able to show empathy, compassion, intuition, or cultural nuances?

I really like what Sherry Turkle asks, “Are we really ready to become a machine’s companion even if they are willing to become ours?”

As AI technology becomes more prevalent, individuals will continue to increasingly interact with AI systems in various domains of life. As Counsellors we can play a significant role in helping individuals navigate these interactions, offering support in establishing healthy boundaries, managing expectations, and coping with potential challenges that may arise in human-AI interactions. Knowing what resources are helpful will make a difference in you assisting your clients.

Ensuring that all voices are included in the training of AI systems so that biases will appear less frequently is essential. AI algorithms already perpetuate and amplify these biases. Let’s work together for positive change that is more inclusive for all.

Understanding AI from a counselling perspective will allow for discussions of the potential preferences in AI systems and their implications. We need to ensure that our, and our client’s privacy rights are respected and protected now and in the future.

By addressing AI from a counselling perspective, you as a helping professional can help raise awareness, promote responsible and ethical AI practices, and support individuals in navigating the impact of AI on their well-being and mental health. My suggestion for learning how AI will impact what you do is to start slow and learn as much as you can whenever you can. 

AI does matter when it comes from a counselling perspective. My hope is that you take a look at some of the resources below and share your resources, thoughts and ideas. Some articles could be used as a starting dialogue for professional development sessions, others may pique your personal interest in this topic.My suggestion is to put down or better yet put away your phones whenever you are face-to-face with another person. Have a real conversation making them the most important person in the room whether discussing AI or not. I look forward to staying connected with others who will commit to keeping AI and humanity at the forefront of their growth knowing that human connection will always matter.

AI References and Resources