When ChatGPT (“Chatbot Generative Pre-trained Transformer”), the groundbreaking language model from Artificial Intelligence (AI), became available to the public in November 2022, social media was dazzled by its stunning capabilities. Within days, it attracted more than one million users. ChatGPT’s ability to quickly compile and distill information from reputable sources set the stage for people to expand their knowledge through distilled research — for business, education, medicine, and even mental health therapy. But for all the usefulness of this tool, it is essential to remember that AI has limitations. There are times when we need professional guidance and human connection. Continue reading for pointers to decide when to access self-help through ChatGPT versus therapy to strengthen your relationship. 

How ChatGPT can help strengthen your relationship

Like any self-help approach, ChatGPT can be very useful in educating couples about how to care for their relationship. Rather than sifting through stacks of self-help books or resources, you and your partner can use ChatGPT to narrow down personalized, evidence-based suggestions. 

For example, a couple might use ChatGPT for researched advice on improving communication on a specific subject and garner results in minutes. This advice could be handy, particularly if you’re seeking prompt support. If you and your partner are motivated to read, learn, and implement your knowledge to benefit your relationship, then AI could be beneficial. 

Another benefit of ChatGPT is that it, theoretically, provides unbiased feedback on relationship challenges. While therapists are trained to employ an unbiased perspective, it is not possible to entirely eliminate bias due to projection and personal values. 

ChatGPT’s ability to provide general information and advice based on common understanding about a couple’s emotional experience can be helpful.  For example, couples can learn more about their attachment styles from ChatGPT, which sheds light on patterns of emotional reactivity and underlying emotional insecurities for each partner. This kind of information can greatly enhance a couple’s emotional intelligence, and teach them about their relationship needs. “Emotional intelligence refers to the capacity to recognize, understand, and manage one’s own emotions and the emotions of others,” an important skill in conflict resolution, and a major component of couples therapy. ChatGPT can be helpful in identifying patterns of emotional interaction, but it likely will not capture the nuance or complexity of the emotional experience.

Be aware of ChatGPT’s therapeutic blind spots 

While many benefits exist, relationship advice overreliance on AI has pitfalls. For example, despite ChatGPT’s ability to support emotional intelligence, it cannot fully replace a human’s ability to sense and organize emotional experiences. Humans possess several critical tools within themselves, including mirror neurons, a central nervous system, and a history of personal experiences. All of these tools play into emotional intelligence and our ability to resonate and connect emotionally with others. Humans can also help to co-regulate and comfort in a way that AI cannot. AI may be able to make suggestions for how to help your partner regulate or feel comforted, but it cannot facilitate the experience. 

It’s important to note that, for all its intelligence, ChatGPT is still limited in its scope of information and cannot know all that humans know through their lived experiences. It also may not be up to date on the latest developments in a particular field. It may present some bias since it relies upon informational sources that may have bias. 

Another drawback is that users must ask questions or submit prompts in a certain way, as “ambiguity and vagueness can lead to inaccurate or irrelevant responses.” Incorrect or unhelpful information might create even more confusion and frustration when resolving relationship conflict. If you and your partner are experiencing relationship distress or conflict that feels complex and overwhelming, ChatGPT may not be sufficiently helpful in finding a resolution.

ChatGPT is a helpful tool, but not a replacement for therapy

AI tools like ChatGPT can only help you and your relationship to a certain degree. Self-help reading and learning can be extremely helpful in providing pointers on addressing issues. Still, it can also feel like trying to read the parachute instruction manual as you fall out of the airplane. In other words, if you and your partner are experiencing strong emotional pain or reactivity, it may be difficult to effectively implement the advice you’ve garnered from ChatGPT, even if the advice is sound. 

If your relationship issues aren’t improving, it might be time to seek professional support. Therapy can benefit complex issues involving emotional distress like high anxiety, shame, or mistrust. A therapist can help you and your partner make sense of your unique experiences and guide you to reach your therapeutic goals — support that AI cannot provide.

When you should seek help from a therapist 

AI tools like ChatGPT are best used as supplements rather than replacements for therapy. Learning more about related concepts, such as advice for improved communication or steps to repairing a conflict, can help prepare you to engage in the work of therapy and augment the emotional support you receive in session. 

As mentioned, sometimes, your need for support extends beyond self-help. If you are ready to schedule an appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started. We offer virtual and in-person sessions.