The Trevor Project has a new AI persona for LGBTQ crisis counseling

Drew represents a youth from California dealing with bullying and harassment.

The Trevor Project (The Trevor Project)

Since the start of 2021, The Trevor Project, the largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ young people, has used an AI technology called the Crisis Contact Simulator to train its counselors on how to talk to in-crisis youth. The tool essentially simulates what a conversation like that may look like with the help of AI chatbots. At launch, the CCS came with access to one such “persona.” Today, The Trevor Project is adding a second one called Drew. The new chatbot represents a fictional youth in their early 20s who lives in California and faces bullying and harassment.

Since implementing its first persona, named Riley, in February, the organization says the technology has helped train more than 1,000 counselors. One thing to note here is The Trevor Project is using the Crisis Contact Simulator to complement its existing training methods; the tool is not a replacement for in-person training. It allows new applicants to complete two roleplay sessions at a time that works best for them. It also claims the chatbots offer an accurate representation of today’s Gen Z youth, complete with “realistic” capitalization and punctuation.

“Starting from the first conception of the Crisis Contact Simulator two years ago, it has always been our hope to develop a variety of training roleplay personas that represent the diverse experiences and intersectional identities of the LGBTQ young people we serve, each with their own stories and feelings,” said Dan Fichter, The Trevor Project’s head of AI and engineering. “We’re excited to deploy Drew with our trainees to offer a wider variety of practice scenarios and narratives, which will better prepare them to connect with any young person in a moment of crisis when the time comes.”

The Trevor Project is no stranger to the tech world. The organization has previously worked with Google and Facebook to improve the reach of its crisis intervention services.

Correction 12/09 11:02AM ET: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the organization's first persona was Trevor. We regret the error.