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Psychol Bull. 2004 Jul;130(4):631-63.

The empirical status of empirically supported psychotherapies: assumptions, findings, and reporting in controlled clinical trials.

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Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


This article provides a critical review of the assumptions and findings of studies used to establish psychotherapies as empirically supported. The attempt to identify empirically supported therapies (ESTs) imposes particular assumptions on the use of randomized controlled trial (RCT) methodology that appear to be valid for some disorders and treatments (notably exposure-based treatments of specific anxiety symptoms) but substantially violated for others. Meta-analytic studies support a more nuanced view of treatment efficacy than implied by a dichotomous judgment of supported versus unsupported. The authors recommend changes in reporting practices to maximize the clinical utility of RCTs, describe alternative methodologies that may be useful when the assumptions underlying EST methodology are violated, and suggest a shift from validating treatment packages to testing intervention strategies and theories of change that clinicians can integrate into empirically informed therapies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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