Critical Thinking

In this chapter we take a look at the ways critical thinking can contribute to our practice. Narrative practices invite us to be curious about where our ideas come from and their effects. Here we look at some of the theoretical assumptions of narrative practice, ways we can strengthen our critical thinking, and how this can influence our work.



Critical does not mean destructive, but only willing to examine what we sometimes presuppose in our way of thinking, and that gets in the way of making a more livable world”

Judith Butler reference

This paper by Mary Heath begins by defining critical thinking and setting out a personal history of the author’s journey toward becoming a critical thinker. Some dimensions of critical thinking are outlined, together with questions which might allow readers to apply them to specific contexts.

Critical Thinking | Mary Heath



An invitation to talk about privilege from Salome Raheim

The relations and practices of power that influence our lives are often invisible to us. If we do not proactively look at how relations of power operate to create advantages for some and deny these advantages to others, it hinders our work as therapists and community practitioners. Without examining the operations of privilege, we are unable to see the circumstances that create constraints on other people’s lives. We are unable to appreciate their daily efforts to work and live in the context of these constraints, or to resist them.

Furthermore, we are unable to see how our lives are made easier. We think that the ease with which we are able to operate in the world is the norm and become oblivious to the fact that everybody’s life is not like our own.

What is more, unless we routinely examine the operations of power and our place within these operations, we fail to notice how we are liable to inadvertently impose our expectations, our cultural ways, our ways of thinking, on the people with whom we work. These impositions tend to diminish those who consult us, and they are destructive to the good work that we wish to accomplish.

This examination and deconstruction of the operations of privilege improves our practice as therapists and community workers. It is only when we recognise what people are up against that we can notice and invite people to richly describe their stories of resistance. It is only in examining the operations of privilege that we can become more aware of the potential for our practice to have negative consequences of inadvertently marginalising and diminishing people’s lives and subordinating their stories.

This work has a particular resonance for those of us who are from marginalised groups. Examining the operations of power and privilege renders visible the constraints upon our lives. It helps us to understand that these constraints are not due to individual deficits, group deficits, or cultural deficits. The problem is not located within us. This lessens the influence of shame and makes resistance more possible.

In the following pages, we have enclosed a range of exercises that we hope will assist in exploring these issues further.

Please open this new page to read on.. : An invitation to narrative practitioners to address privilege and dominance


Narrative Therapy and Community work are considered Postmodern and Post-structuralist in theoretical orientation. Here Leonie Thomas helps us make sense of what this might mean and focuses on a few areas of Post-structuralism while offering some answers to commonly asked questions.

Leonie Thomas Post-structuralism Reading



For Reflection

What does ‘critical thinking’ mean to you?


How might your practice be different on account of your engagement with these materials?


Do you have any stories or sayings that keep you connected to ‘critical thinking’?



Please now respond to these questions in the forum below! Please include where you are writing from (City and Country). Thanks!

This Post Has 259 Comments

  1. Claire Nulsen

    Hi, I’m Claire from Perth in Australia, though I’m currently living in Youghal, Ireland. I found the process of reflecting on the individualistic values bought by my European ancestors to Australia as well as the assumption of hard work resulting in ‘success’ (and the narrow Anglo-centric view of what ‘success’ looks like) really interesting to complete. The article contrasting structuralism (which appears consistent with the CBT approach to understanding client presentations – which is the primary mode of therapy that I was trained in) and post-structuralism (which appears consistent with Positive Behaviour Support – which is the primary mode of therapy I currently use) prompted me to reflect on my assumptions about client presentations.

  2. amashilda

    Hello, my name is Mariya. I live in Minsk, Belarus. Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, evaluate, and interpret information logically and objectively to form well-reasoned and informed judgments or decisions. It involves questioning assumptions and considering multiple perspectives to reach a one’s conclusion. I can use critical thinking to approach situations in an unbiased way. This helps me to come up with more accurate and effective solutions. Here’s my favourite quote: “The key to critical thinking is powerful questioning”

  3. Elena Brieño

    This topic was so confrontative because, in my own story, the idea of having critical thinking has been indicated like something bad because that means going to another side to the normality. Now I can understand that is well to move on in my own direction, and what will let me do this? Critical Thinking. Then, I started to confront my structuralism to open my mind to poststructuralism, giving me the chance to be a better partner in the counseling process of others.

    Was an amazing lesson!

  4. Jocilyn Csernyik

    What does ‘critical thinking’ mean to you?
    A central theme I reflected on from this module is that trends in society/theoretical perspectives help to develop and influence the individual mindset/what they think about critically, and resultingly critical thinking in 2023 looks very different from critical thinking in 1923. I also think that it’s not just about the ‘what’ we are thinking about, but it’s also the ‘why’ behind why we consider devoting time and thought to subjects, which also circles back to relevancy in trends within current culture and society. With these considerations in mind, to me, critical thinking is challenging existing thoughts with parallel information and drawing on our experiences/knowledge to determine what we think and why.

    How might your practice be different on account of your engagement with these materials?
    I think it’s important to interact with information, such as the information presented in these modules, on a regular basis in order to constantly challenge beliefs, commit to a growth mindset, and maintain openness to new ideas and change in order to adapt support to be effective and receptive to client needs.

    Do you have any stories or sayings that keep you connected to ‘critical thinking’?
    I consistently find myself using the phrase “zoom out” the microscope in my work with students as a way to help them recognize that today’s issues may be all-consuming, however, tomorrow is coming with all of its possibilities and opportunities that can allow for growth and change– so long as they are receptive to it. I think this idea is not only a critical-thinking approach to life, but it is also a growth-oriented mindset that can sustain them in their endeavors to navigating change and conflict, ultimately helping them to build skills of resiliency and self-sufficiency.

  5. Sonya

    Sonya from New Zealand,

    What does ‘critical thinking’ mean to you?
    I used to think that critical thinking was me just reflecting back over a piece of knowledge and assessing if I am right or wrong. Now, critical thinking seems like my awareness of how I am thinking with an other, and what thoughts/stories have we co-constructed (without the aim of being right/wrong). Mindfulness of whether or not I am imposing my own ideas is important.

  6. Jennifer

    Jennifer from Wellington New Zealand
    I have been endlessly fascinated in the pursuit of a criteria for selfhood as well as the expression of self. I feel the discussion of privilege in this section when accompanied by the discussion on Post-Structuralism offers up a critical juncture for contemplation: that as therapists that our practice can intentionally or unintentionally determine the value or presence of another’s self. How we engage and practice with our clients particularly with those whose presentation of themselves does not fit into our cultural or typical lens for what is healthy, can be used as a template for how others respond to the individual. It reinforces to me that it is important that our engagement with critical thinking about ourselves and our clients keeps us in a place of informed responsiveness to our clients rather than reactive as our patterns of practice become more ingrained.

  7. yekta

    Hi all, I am writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

    My name is Yekta.
    Id like to discuss what critical thinking means to me. in the context of narrative therapy.
    Critical thinking is the capacity to impartially analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information and ideas. In narrative therapy, it plays a pivotal role in helping individuals separate their identity from their problems. Narrative therapy underscores that individuals are not defined by their issues, and critical thinking supports this notion. It enables individuals to objectively examine the narratives they construct about themselves and their problems, identifying underlying assumptions and societal influences within those narratives. Moreover, critical thinking empowers individuals to generate alternative, more empowering narratives, facilitating a more objective and constructive approach to addressing personal challenges. In narrative therapy, critical thinking empowers individuals to deconstruct and reconstruct their life narratives, reinforcing the idea that problems can be addressed separately from one’s identity, promoting personal growth and healing.

  8. uma

    Uma from Alberta, Canada. In regards to the question: “Do you have any stories or sayings that keep you connected to ‘critical thinking’?” I like to connect this to the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” which encourages critical thinking by questioning initial judgments based on appearances.

    I find that narratives that highlight personal growth, resilience, and transformation can foster critical thinking. Stories of individuals who have overcome adversity or redefined their life stories can serve as inspiring examples for clients to explore their own narratives critically.

  9. Nancy Bell

    Hello, I’m Nancy from Brisbane, Australia. This is another interesting area for reflection; a fundamental pillar to sound community practice. I learnt the importance of critical thinking and action during social work training early in my career many years ago, however it is one of those planks that needs to be constantly waved to keep our ‘eyes on our fries.’ It is so easy to fall back into our comfortable ways of thinking and working, often unconsciously trapped inside our own world of assumptions. I am aware of some of the very real barriers to best practice in my work with older people. I haven’t been a really old person yet, although I feel I am racing up the fairway now! In this way I can never really know how a very frail aged person might be feeling in a specific moment. I can work at developing a strong relationship with the older person over time, being aware that I’m largely ignorant of their daily experience of life, and I can ask diplomatic and sensitive questions of the person in question, and I do. This does help a lot, as does humour. Humour or at the very least a friendly manner doesn’t need to be inappropriate or coarse, but can sometimes be used quite effectively to gain greater insight to someone’s lived experience without damage to either party. Fundamental to all of this is ongoing reflective self awareness and of course this is the great starting point.
    I have been away for a while and apologise for the time lapse in my postings. I am genuinely enjoying the content of these learnings. Thank you. Nancy Bell.

  10. andrewkilgour

    Andrew from Newcastle,

    As a teacher we can often fall into the traps of critical thinking as being a mechanism to find the flaws in a position or to question the validity or relevance of information. The article on critical thinking was a good reminder to focus on the richness or multiple perspectives and how we can use these to create a more holistic picture of what’s going on, with each view holding importance. The chapter really made me reflect on the way we work with Aboriginal students and their families and how my own privilege impacts these interactions and how it is reflected in the system in which our school operates. I think there is opportunities for us as a school and myself as a teacher to ask questions of ourselves on how that privilege can impact others and how we can change.

  11. Nina Mc

    Sydney, NSW. I love the link between critical thinking and intersectionality in practice. Working mostly in private practice, I find I explore these types of issues almost daily and specifically I find the use of critical thinking to increase sympathy and understanding very helpful when I find myself getting caught up in the room and outside of it. Explored what assumptions I am holding on to and looking at the evidence that might challenge them is critical to ethical practice. Love this section. Thanks!

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