Can machines evaluate psychotherapists?

Computational analysis and empathy may not sound like a match made in heaven. But a new study suggests that machine-learning systems can be harnessed to the task of detecting, measuring and enhancing a mental health professional’s empathic response to clients in distress.That, in turn, could make psychotherapy better, and more widely accessible where it’s most needed. To doubters, it might even help prove its worth.In work performed at USC, researchers devised an engineering solution to a perennial problem in the training and assessment of psychotherapists: The systems in place for detecting empathy are basically other humans. The process of distinguishing an effective therapist from one likely to send clients running for cover is, essentially, review by other humans. Since time immemorial, trained raters have watched a live or recorded therapy…

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