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The debate on the validity of the evidence-based medicine (EBM) paradigm in psychiatry and psychotherapy has tended to be rather polarized. Critics of the paradigm maintain that there is a basic conflict between the general knowledge of treatment of groups of patients ('techne') and the contextual understanding of individual patients ('phronesis'). This paper argues that the existence of firm general knowledge is crucial to the legitimacy of the psychiatric as well as the medical profession as a whole, and defends the controlled clinical trial as a central instrument to establish such knowledge. At the same time, however, the paradigm does not solve the old Aristotelian techne–phronesis dilemma, which seems to be more or less inescapable. Focusing on psychotherapy, the paper discusses problems connected with the 'techne-oriented' use of diagnostic principles and of therapy manuals, the criteria for therapeutic progress, and the apparent conflict between experimental efficacy and practical effectiveness.