Can you tell if your therapist has empathy?

Empathy is the foundation of therapeutic intervention. But how can you know if your therapist is or will be empathetic? Technology developed by researchers from USC, the University of Washington and the University of Utah can tell you.

Leveraging developments in automatic speech recognition, natural language processing and machine learning, researchers developed software to detect “high-empathy” or “low-empathy” speech by analyzing more than 1,000 therapist-patient sessions. The researchers designed a machine-learning algorithm that takes speech as its input to automatically generate an empathy score for each session.

The methodology is documented in a forthcoming article titled “Rate My Therapist: Automated Detection of Empathy in Drug and Alcohol Counseling via Speech and Language Processing.” According to the authors, it’s the first study of its kind to record therapy sessions and automatically determine the quality of a therapy session based on a single characteristic. The study appears in the December issue of PLoS ONE.

BY Amy Blumenthal