Large Language Models in Mental Health Care: a Scoping Review

Objective: The growing use of large language models (LLMs) stimulates a need for a comprehensive review of their applications and outcomes in mental health care contexts. This scoping review aims to critically analyze the existing development and applications of LLMs in mental health care, highlighting their successes and identifying their challenges and limitations in these specialized fields. Materials and Methods: A broad literature search was conducted in November 2023 using six databases (PubMed, Web of Science, Google Scholar, arXiv, medRxiv, and PsyArXiv) following the 2020 version of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A total of 313 publications were initially identified, and after applying the study inclusion criteria, 34 publications were selected for the final review. Results: We identified diverse applications of LLMs in mental health care, including diagnosis, therapy, patient engagement enhancement, etc. Key challenges include data availability and reliability, nuanced handling of mental states, and effective evaluation methods. Despite successes in accuracy and accessibility improvement, gaps in clinical applicability and ethical considerations were evident, pointing to the need for robust data, standardized evaluations, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Conclusion: LLMs show promising potential in advancing mental health care, with applications in diagnostics, and patient support. Continued advancements depend on collaborative, multidisciplinary efforts focused on framework enhancement, rigorous dataset development, technological refinement, and ethical integration to ensure the effective and safe application of LLMs in mental health care.

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