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An Innovative Approach to Supplemental Mental Health Care

AI-Integrated Emotional Wellness


by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.

Chairman, The National Center for Emotional Wellness

Principal Consultant & Creator, AI-Integrated Emotional Wellness



Technology is advancing faster than our ability to adapt. Digital communication, such as text messaging, email, mobile apps, games, social media, and video conferencing, is rapidly increasing and replacing traditional in-person, face-to-face human interaction.


With this proliferation of technology, we’re experiencing information overload—we’re saturated with regular doses of streaming conflict and adversity. This has led to a significant increase in mental health problems. Anxiety has become the most prevalent mental illness in the United States, and depression is now the leading cause of illness and disability worldwide.


In response to these challenges, The National Center for Emotional Wellness is focused on an innovative, supportive approach—AI-Integrated Emotional Wellness (AIEW). AIEW addresses the broad interface between the cognitive abilities of artificial intelligence and the complexity of human emotions. Acknowledging the irreplaceable importance of authentic, in-person communication, AIEW focuses on how artificial intelligence can foster emotional well-being.


As a principal consultant in AIEW, I collaborate with the AI community, contributing insights and recommendations on creating and implementing chatbots and virtual therapists. These digital platforms are valuable adjuncts to traditional mental health care and have other applications, such as customer support, sales, marketing, education, healthcare, and more.


Today, chatbots and virtual therapists are trained to imitate mental health professionals—counselors and therapists. While these platforms appear to actively listen and recommend coping strategies, their robotic communication presents significant risks.


Rather than mere imitation or mimicking counselors or therapists, I propose emulation—which aims to match and even surpass the quality of the original. It strives for excellence in understanding and responding to human emotion. Through emulation, chatbots and virtual therapists can supplement the provision of mental health care—ensuring the delivery of authentic emotional support.


I’ve introduced an innovative AIEW strategy to empower chatbots and virtual therapists to emulate mental health professionals. SESSIONS could provide real-life emotional experiences and specific evidence-based strategies to enhance chatbots' and virtual therapists' emotional understanding and response. By studying the interactions and authentic communication in SESSIONS, AI models can be trained to emulate human therapists. This includes understanding various emotional states, responding appropriately, and providing effective emotional support. Furthermore, observing ethical guidelines in SESSIONS can help develop standards for AI tools, ensuring they respect user privacy and provide support responsibly.


Finally, it’s crucial to underscore the importance of quantifying and measuring the efficacy of AIEW with chatbots and virtual therapists. This step is essential to ensuring that these platforms offer efficient, empathic, and compassionate support to individuals in need—providing a reliable and measurable standard for AIEW's performance.


As a principal consultant in AIEW, I’m committed to ensuring that mental support is centered on empathy, warmth, genuineness—and a deep respect for the complexities of human emotion.



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