Theory and practice

Practice-based learning

The bulk of the papers and videos on this site are focussed on developing practice – identifying, reporting, analysing; action learning, an emphasis on psychologically informed, but practice-based, learning; and we mean the word ‘psychology’ in its broadest sense.

In addition, there is a growing body of belief that theory does not fall out of the sky, where it is marshalled by experts before being safe to release into the wild. Rather, some of the most important areas of new thinking come from a very practical engagement with real life situations and complex dilemmas – combined with a spirit of curiosity.

In work with the most marginalised and excluded, it may be particularly important to begin with suspending the assumptions and priorities of the wider, or 'mainstream' community, and with engaging where the client is at, in their own terms. Theory can tell us that it's important; but it's not theory that makes relationships.

But that does not mean that these developments are entirely devoid of theory.  In fact, many argue that there can be no observations at all without some kind of conceptual framework; and no selection without some implicit or explicit understanding of the underlying connections between issues, the wider issues, and the history of policy and of ideas.


The theory thinking behind the PIEs idea.

Contributing to the underlying thinking on PIEs, there is a long history of discussions within mental health circles on the nature and dynamics of therapeutic communities – TCs. There have been contributions from psychodynamic and ‘systems psychoanalytic’ theory; from behavioural psychology; from humanistic psychology, existential and liberation theology; many recent and on-going insights from neuroscience, on the nature of trauma and the nature of learning; also via the ‘medical model’ of diagnostic categories and treatments

Wider still, there has been the broader development of systems theory, the social determinants of health, the social model of disability, social constructionism, conceptual pragmatism. In social policy,  there has been the growing critique of New Public Management in health and social care, the negative impact of disempowerment, exclusion and stigma, and the positive significance of social purpose and of community.

Finally, there are, almost every day, small studies published that seem to shed new light in what is happening in, for example, encounters with homeless people, or the opportunities for change. These ‘snippets’ are insightful, relevant, ironic, sometimes tongue-in-cheek comments and the sample frame is cheerfully idiosyncratic, even anarchic.

Further background reading/listening/viewing

PIElink pages

Snippets – short pieces of useful insight HERE

The ethics and politics of PIEs : HERE

PD and the sociology of knowledge : pending 

Pretreatment : HERE

Ethnography as method : HERE


Library items

Learning and enquiry, and the cycles of evidence-based practice : HERE

Do complex needs need complex needs services? : HERE

Does it take a psychologist to make a PIE?HERE

Conducting research and evaluation with people with complex needs in a person-centred way : HERE

Anthropology as perspective : HERE

Loving beggars : HERE

Rex Haigh on contemporary concepts of the Therapeutic Community : HERE

Today we have naming of parts : Pending