Benjamin Recht


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Towards augmenting crisis counselor training by improving message retrieval
Orianna Demasi | Marti A. Hearst | Benjamin Recht
Proceedings of the Sixth Workshop on Computational Linguistics and Clinical Psychology

A fundamental challenge when training counselors is presenting novices with the opportunity to practice counseling distressed individuals without exacerbating a situation. Rather than replacing human empathy with an automated counselor, we propose simulating an individual in crisis so that human counselors in training can practice crisis counseling in a low-risk environment. Towards this end, we collect a dataset of suicide prevention counselor role-play transcripts and make initial steps towards constructing a CRISISbot for humans to counsel while in training. In this data-constrained setting, we evaluate the potential for message retrieval to construct a coherent chat agent in light of recent advances with text embedding methods. Our results show that embeddings can considerably improve retrieval approaches to make them competitive with generative models. By coherently retrieving messages, we can help counselors practice chatting in a low-risk environment.