Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 117–129 | Cite as

Rules Versus Principles in Psychotherapy: Implications of the Quest for Universal Guidelines in the Movement for Empirically Supported Treatments

  • Heidi M. LevittEmail author
  • Robert A. Neimeyer
  • Daniel C. Williams


In this article we briefly review the mission and criteria of the EST movement and several of its criticisms. We question an often-unacknowledged feature of the EST initiative—its foundation in a rule-governed approach to the regulation of psychotherapy—and argue that this approach encounters significant problems that are better resolved through an alternative, principle-based approach. The contrast between these perspectives is illustrated by presenting results of a qualitative research project identifying the implicit principles actually used by expert therapists across psychotherapy orientations to regulate values and interventions within their practice.


psychotherapy empirically supported treatments principles rules values 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi M. Levitt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert A. Neimeyer
    • 1
  • Daniel C. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of MemphisMemphis

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