NLP meets psychotherapy: Using predicted client emotions and self-reported client emotions to measure emotional coherenceDownload PDF

Published: 21 Oct 2022, Last Modified: 05 May 2023PAI4MH 2022 OralReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Natural Language processing, Emotion Recognition, Emotional Coherence
Abstract: Emotions are experienced and expressed through various response systems. Coherence between emotional experience and emotional expression is considered highly important to clients' well being. To date, emotional coherence has been studied at a single time point using lab-based tasks with relatively small datasets. No study has examined emotional coherence between the subjective experience of emotions and utterance-level emotions over therapy sessions or whether this coherence is associated with clients' well being. Natural language Processing (NLP) approaches have been applied to identify emotions during psychotherapy dialogue, which can be implemented to study emotional processes on a larger scale and with specificity. However, these methods have yet to be used to study coherence between emotional experience and emotional expression over the course of therapy and whether it relates to clients' well-being. This work presents an end-to-end approach where we use emotion predictions from our transformer based emotion recognition model to study emotional coherence and its diagnostic potential in psychotherapy research. We first employ our transformer based approach on a Hebrew psychotherapy dataset to automatically label clients' emotions at the utterance level in psychotherapy dialogues. We subsequently investigate the emotional coherence between clients' self-reported emotional states and our model-based emotion predictions. We also examine the association between emotional coherence and clients' well being. The findings indicate a significant correlation between clients' self-reported emotions and positive and negative emotions expressed verbally during psychotherapy sessions. Coherence in positive emotions was also highly correlated with clients well-being. These results illustrate how NLP can be applied to identify important emotional processes in psychotherapy to improve diagnosis and treatment for clients who suffer from mental-health problems.
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