Woebot in the time of Covid-19

The first time someone mentioned Coronavirus to Woebot was on January 2nd. For the rest of that month, there was a slow creep of mentions. In February, Coronavirus mentions doubled biweekly, then weekly, and finally in March, mentions doubled from one day to the next. Sound familiar? Indeed, the curve that denotes the fear and worry caused by this virus looks just like the graph of contagion of the illness itself.

At the same time that our staff were packing up their desks to work from home, we dropped all other projects and turned our attention to supporting our users through this unprecedented time. Our team and especially our engineers and our writers have worked day and night. We launched our Coronavirus program on March 17th with a lesson called “Perspective”. In typical Woebot fashion, it is whimsical, hopeful, warm and authentic with a touch of humor.

The goals of the program are not to provide more Coronavirus information per se, but rather to lift spirits, and to help people stay grounded during this anxiety provoking time. Over the course of the program, users can look forward to more guided meditations, as well as practical tips like ideas for staving off cabin fever, things to do with others via technology, a story about shared anxiety among chickens called “Chicken Study for the Soul”.

Aside from our regular conversations, we have improved some of our existing tools to deal with grief, and economic hardship. Unlike our thought challenging and mindfulness exercises, these tools are from another evidence based approach called Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and focus on processing loss and role transitions.

Our Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Athena Robinson, a mother of two, has produced a series of blog posts on how to navigate this time covering everything from social distancing to helping children and parents adjust to distance learning.

In addition, our engineers built a web tool that is a slimmed down version of the Woebot offering that allows people to get immediate access to a helpful tool to manage anxiety, bypassing the need to download an app and register. I’m proud to say this web tool is currently being translated to Italian to help one of the worst affected areas.

In just a couple of weeks the landscape of our company and the world has shifted. The unique ability for digital tools to meet people where they’re at has never been as self-evident and that is a conversation we find ourselves no longer needing to have.

The truth is that the ability to focus our energy on such meaningful work at this time has been a blessing and a privilege. At times like this when there’s so much that one can’t control, it helps to focus on the things you can. So we support people, because that’s what we can do.