“There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” (Kurt Lewin). Good theory fosters very practical approaches to treatment.

According to Karl Menninger in Man Against Himself, “A theory, even a false one, is better than to attribute events to pure chance. ‘Chance’ explanations leave us in the dark; a theory will lead to confirmation or rejection.”

Good Theory

•Brings creative intellectual processes to bear on major issues.

•Facilitates shifts from fixated to more productive lines of enquiry.

•Produces viable answers to complex questions.

•Provides focus and direction.

•Generates testable hypotheses.

•Helps synthesis disparate data.

•Creates a meaningful context for interpreting empirical findings.

•In balance with empirical studies enhances true research outcomes.

•Improves the conceptual understanding of statistics.

•Fosters cross discipline knowledge often hampered by other research methods.

Academic departments favor empirical over theoretical research. However, from issues including conflict of interest, researcher bias, patient selection criteria, statistical treatment of the data, slanted interpretation of research results, and under-reporting of negative results, to mention a few concerns, so-called objective research is actually quite subjective. On the other hand, theoretical research conducted with an open mind and spirit of curiosity adhering to rigorous guidelines can be relatively objective!

The take home message is that robust theoretical research has value in psychiatry and clinical psychology, and as much as empirical research. Progress in science occurs with a healthy balance of theoretical and empirical approaches. Those conducting well-grounded theoretical research in psychiatry, clinical psychology, and related disciplines are performing a very valuable function for the advancement of science, and need to be fully aware of this reality. Actively resist any notions to the contrary. Believe in what you are doing for the advancement of knowledge and the ultimate goal of science—producing true outcomes!