AI-Therapy has its roots in a program called CBTpsych.com. CBTpsych.com was developed between the years of 2007 and 2011 at the University of Sydney. The program was Fjola Helgadottir's PhD research project, and was developed by her under the supervision of Associate Professor Ross Menzies. The original aim of CBTPsych.com was to develop innovative ways to deliver psychological treatment to people in rural Australia, who generally did not have access to professionally trained therapists. The target population of the original program was people with stutter and social anxiety.
CBTpsych.com was built using a wealth of psychological data that had been gathered from major anxiety and mood clinics over a period of 20 years. This information was used to create a database of individualized clinical interventions. It is this unique approach to automated online therapy that led to Fjola receiving the prestigious Tracy Goodall Award in 2009.
In 2012, Fjola and Ross decided to take what they had learned from CBTpsych.com, and create a program accessible to anyone worldwide. Unlike the original program, the new one would be suitable for all people who suffer from social anxiety, not just those with stutter. Fjola and Ross redeveloped and redesigned the treatment program, and launched it as AI-Therapy - Overcome Social Anxiety in August 2012.
Two trials were conducted on CBTpsych.com. The first study involved 2 participants with a diagnosis of social phobia, and both lost their diagnosis following treatment. A second study involved 18 participants. 10 of these participants completed all seven sections of the program, and everyone who had a social phobia diagnosis prior to starting the program no longer met the criteria for social phobia after the program. Furthermore, of the 16 participants who began the program, there was a statistically significant reduction in symptoms of social anxiety, unhelpful thoughts and depressed mood. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) study of the original CBTpsych.com program is currently underway.
Currently there are several trials underway. Two in Vancouver, Canada in association with University of British Columbia, and St Pauls, Granville Inner City Youth Clinic, and one collaboration with a university in California.
AI-Therapy's Overcome Social Anxiety program only uses well established, evidence-based therapies. In particular, it uses a therapeutic approach known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Hundreds of clinical trials over the past 30 years have confirmed the long-term effectiveness of CBT for treating anxiety among adults.
More information about the academic research underpinning the program can be found in the following peer-reviewed papers:
Fjola has also presented her research at peer reviewed conferences in the USA, UK, Australia, Europe and South America. A relevant blog post is Fjola's CBT World Congress talk on AI-Therapy in July, 2013