Psychiatric nurses function in many varied settings of practice, against the backdrop of continuous change, in the organization of health care delivery. Understandably, psychiatric nursing practice roles are not well-defined despite the availability of a range of theories. A framework for brokering between theory and practice is proposed. Elements of role adequacy, role legitimacy and role support are related to 'theory of' and 'theory for' psychiatric nursing. When treated as dynamic in relation to one another, these elements can form a framework for clarifying practice roles.