When expertise meets technology: Meet the Arete Wellbeing Coach

Meet your Coach! Your artificially intelligent (AI) Wellbeing Coach, that is. In this new series, we take a deep dive into the various features of the Arete map, which hits the App Store this month.

In just a few short weeks, you’ll be able to meet your new Wellbeing Coach.

Their name?

Well, that’s up to you.

Arete is designed to destigmatise athlete mental health. We're doing this by starting the conversation, with an artificially intelligent (AI) Wellbeing Coach.

The Coach is the product of the intertwining of the latest in AI technology with the expertise of our team, covering every aspect of performance and not just limited to sports psychology.

Research has already shown that AI can serve as a cost-effective and accessible therapeutic agent, and Arete helps make access for athletes to quality advice from sports psychologists, dieticians, physiotherapists easier and more affordable than ever.

By removing barriers of accessibility and affordability, we are empowering athletes to take better care of their mental health and wellbeing than ever before.

Our Wellbeing Coach is trained in the latest clinically-validated approaches to sport psychology. Arete integrates traditional methods of sport psychology with approaches of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). 

Our user-centered design advances traditional therapy methods, and creates genuine innovation that enhances meaningful growth.

This makes for incredible advantages for the athletes themselves, but also for clubs and coaches.

Developed with professionals, our app is loaded with scientifically-backed tools and techniques that help youth athletes thrive. 

By equipping your athletes with Arete and our Wellbeing Coach, you are removing several of the barriers that athletes face when it comes to accessing mental support.

Arete’s AI-powered Wellbeing coach offers 24/7 support in an anonymous and safe environment. 

The Wellbeing Coach guides athletes through scientifically backed strategies for managing difficult thoughts and feelings so they can perform at their absolute best. 

Getting to know your Wellbeing Coach

So, how does it work?

When you open Arete for the first time, you will be asked to set up your very own Wellbeing Coach.

You’ll pick their look, their style and - of course - their name!

Once you’ve set up your coach you’ll be invited to tell your new coach a little bit about yourself and eventually, your very first daily wellbeing check.

These checks are a super important part of your daily interactions with your Wellbeing Coach, because they feed directly into your very own Wellbeing Tracker.

But more on the Wellbeing Tracker another time…

Your Wellbeing Coach can help you increase your confidence, cope with performance anxiety, visualise excellence in performance and a wide range of other areas that can help your mental fitness and improve your game.

And what’s more, these conversation topics grow by the day, with each module designed to equip athletes with the tools they need to thrive in the high-pressure sporting world.

Each of these topics has been hand-picked by Arete’s team of experts, including Lead Psychologist Daniel Dymond who says the topics were chosen because they all have an important role to play in the mental wellbeing of any athlete.

“Really, athletes choose the topics,” he said.

“And what I mean by that is, athletes in sports are the experts. They’re the ones who come to us wanting to know about certain topics.

“So at the start, Kas [Taleb, Arete Founder] ran a focus group and that came up with a number of topics.

“The topics you’d expect to come up, came up. Things like confidence, performance anxiety, letting go of mistakes. Those are pretty common things you might talk about in performance psychology.

“I started to bring my expertise in but even that is based on my experiences with athletes and what they come to me as a psychologist to talk about it.

“So then we spoke to sporting clubs and organisations, they started to bring up topics that were being brought up by their athletes.

“So really, it’s all about the athletes.”

Opening Up The Conversation

Daniel said the overarching purpose of every conversation is three-pronged.

  1. Providing greater education
  2. Providing practical skills and, perhaps most importantly
  3. Simply starting that conversation.

“This is one of the things I think is so amazing about this Wellbeing Coach,” Daniel said.

“We know there’s a stigma on mental health and I think this Wellbeing Coach creates a window of opportunity for the athlete to start having a conversation.

“Through the skills of the Coach, we educate the user to be less fearful of what they’re experiencing which will then open them up to talking to people.”

The conversations that the Coach has with users is totally dependent on the responses selected by each user, meaning that different users might have completely different conversations with the Wellbeing Coach.

The content that was used as the building blocks for these conversations were written by various experts, from psychologists to dieticians to physiotherapists.

“Every conversation is different,” Daniel said.

“So, for example, writing a conversation about Values is very different to doing one about Anxiety, because anxiety is an emotion and values is more of a skill-based thing.

“But if we talk about the conversations that focus on emotions, we give a set of options.

“The first question is, why have they chosen this conversation?

“What we try to do is not always try and make the user think that there’s a problem that they need to fix. It could just be about getting better at it.

“So the options we give, for example in a conversation about confidence, would be ‘I just want to learn more about it’, to ‘I’m struggling with it and I’m low on confidence.’

“Depending on the option the user picks, the conversation changes, but the skills we’re teaching stay the same. The difference might be that on one particular path there might be more exploring.

“At the end of every conversation we encourage the user to connect with someone else, be it a friend, a coach or a parent.”

With a number of the athletes who were provided early access to Arete being based in Victoria, which has had to deal with the harshed of Australia’s COVID-19-related lockdowns, there is a lot of correlation between what has been happening in the real world and the conversations being used on the app.

With a lot of uncertainty about what COVID might mean for athletes who have perhaps missed out on a whole year of action, it’s not surprising to see topics like uncertainty and motivation amongst the most popular conversations being had with their Wellbeing Coach.

Daniel said this was an interesting trend.

“Uncertainty as a term has been used a lot in the media and the news,” he said.

“But the weird thing is, uncertainty is always there whether there’s COVID or not. We’re just more aware of it now.

“So because of the constant changing environment, particularly here in Melbourne, it’s interesting that a lot of users have had that conversation.”

The Technology Behind The Wellbeing Coach

Arete Product Manager Soundarya Murthy has overseen the development of Arete’s AI platform.

She said the Wellbeing Coach learns more about the user with every conversation and based on the data provided by the user, the `Wellbeing Coach is able to lead them to relevant conversations and deliver the required content.

The Wellbeing Coach aims to automate parts of therapy, thereby making it far more accessible to a much wider range of athletes, but this is only possible if the quality of content the Virtual Coach can deliver is of an excellent standard.

“We’re working very closely with the psychologists and the other experts,” Soundarya said.

“At the end of the day, what’s actually happening in a therapy session is that there is a conversation happening between the therapist and the athlete or the person seeking mental wellbeing support.

“People are also three times more likely to be open to talking to an AI chatbot versus a human. 

“To this point, I would like to add that Arete is not a replacement for human support. It acts as a supplement to current practices in place. 

“The Wellbeing Coach is an interactive element to reach the audience but it always keeps in mind and suggests that it’s always better to reach out to family, coaches, friends and peers and recommends the right intervention to the athlete seeking help.

“So what we’ve tried to do is identify the parts that could essentially be automated and frame it like a series of steps for identifying and addressing unhelpful ways of thinking using Natural Language Processing.”

Natural Language Processing, often referred to as NLP, is a segment of AI that enables the conversations facilitated by the Virtual Coach to flow as if they were being conducted between two people.

Soundarya has worked on a range of different AI projects, but said the Arete program stood out from the crowd because of its ability to combine the powerful technology with first-class content in a way that made engagement with the subject a seamless experience.

“There’s a lot of thought behind what goes into the application,” Sound said.

“We’ve tried to give a really holistic picture in terms of what we want to give the user.

“There’s the combination of the Wellbeing Coach that allows the users to chat with other features, like the Wellbeing Tracker, the gamification with challenges and rewards, so I think it’s exciting.”

The Arete app is launching in October as part of Mental Health Awareness Month! Want to keep up with the latest news? Subscribe to our mailing list for updates.

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