Towards Conversational Coaching Agents to Support Bibliotherapy Sessions

Patrick McAllister, James Kerr, Mike McTear, Maurice Mulvenna, RR Bond, Karen Kirby

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Chatbots or conversational agents have become popular in recent years due to the democratisation of technology that allow business and developers to easily create chatbots. Chatbots have the ability to augment processes that make it easier for an organisation to achieve its objectives. Chatbot technology has been used across various domains e.g. online businesses have used chatbots to automate customer support as well as within the healthcare domain. Chatbots have been used to support a wide range of health conditions e.g. mental well-being, nutritional intake, addictions, and also physical activity monitoring. Much of the work undertaken in these areas have combined behaviour change theories with chatbot technology to support individuals living with mental health conditions and one of the most popular Chatbot is Woebot.

While there is evidence of much research in utilising chatbots to deliver cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) based conversational approaches, there has been little analysis of how chatbots can be used to support bibliotherapy sessions. Bibliotherapy can be described as type of talking-therapy that uses short stories or poems to support individuals dealing with mental health issues. During a bibliotherapy session participants are asked questions related to their emotions or events that may have happened to them. These stories can be used as a catalyst for discussion to promote discussion and help explore the participant’s mental/emotional issues. Some research has highlighted the positive effects of using bibliotherapy to help treat obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and emotional disorders. The focus of our work is to explore, develop, and analyse how chatbots could be used to augment Verbal Arts Centre bibliotherapy sessions “Reading Rooms”. The first phase of this project is focused on developing a digital platform that houses a chatbot coaching agent “Bibliobot”. Bibliobot will be used to support current bibliotherapy facilitators at Verbal Arts through helping them prepare for their bibliotherapy sessions. Bibliobot will provide support by guiding facilitators through the major story themes, sub-themes, and provide suggestions to help foster discussion amongst participants. An iterative development approach has been adopted to refine Bibliobot based on continuous feedback and evaluation from facilitators based at Verbal Arts Archive
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 Oct 2019
EventEuropean Conference on Mental Health - Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Oct 20194 Oct 2019


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Mental Health
Abbreviated titleECMH
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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