Center for Digital Health

CDH Seminar 12/15: "Cheeseburger Therapy: Peer-to-Peer Internet Therapy for Everyone"

Promotional image for Michael Toomim's talk on "Cheeseburger Therapy: Peer-to-Peer Internet Therapy for Everyone"Humans naturally want to help each other, but modern society traps "mental health" behind expensive bureaucracies. Cheeseburger Therapy teaches ordinary people the skills of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and provides structured oversight to make it safe for them to help other humans through the internet—and get paid doing so.

Cheeseburger Therapy began as research at the University of Washington but is now a functioning community that changes real human lives. In this talk we will show three innovations that make it possible:

  • A novel version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, custom-designed for the internet, embedded in a User Interface that breaks the therapeutic process into a flowchart of steps that can be taught to ordinary humans, tracked by a computer, and evaluated as a reliable method for changing someone's life.
  • A research platform for developing new therapeutic methods, by A/B testing them within practicing online community and evaluating results against a baseline. The platform features a novel design for text-chat that increases both empathy and anonymity, increasing signal and reducing noise within experiments.
  • A novel interactive peer-to-peer training system that can teach ordinary humans, in about 20 hours, to provide consistently helpful therapeutic conversations. Helpers improve their emotional listening, learn new thought skills, and gain the opportunity to graduate and make money helping people.

Speaker Bio

Michael Toomim is a Computer Scientist trained at the University of Washington and the University of California at Berkeley, who currently works at the Invisible College in Berkeley.  He has expertise in Human-Computer Interaction, and has worked in Cognitive Psychology, Social Computing, Data Synchronization, and Programming Tools. His PhD thesis defined the first measurable approach to Attention Economics.  He currently co-leads the Cheeseburger Therapy and Braid projects.


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