When I started out as a practitioner, and, later, when I began teaching psychoanalytic theory and practice, I assumed a very close connection between theory and practice. As a teacher, I saw it as my task to first teach students the main psychoanalytic theories, and then help them “apply” the theories to their practice. But over time, I started to question the value of this way of thinking. What does it mean to “apply” a theoretical construct, concept or framework to a live piece of practice? It is certainly not like applying a coat of paint to a bare wall. Furthermore, what, precisely, was being applied — was it a wholesale theory, or bits of a theory? Probably the latter, but which bits and how would they cohere? These questions led me to doubt the value of this way of thinking about theory and practice. But if theory was not there simply to be applied, what was it meant to be doing?
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