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 221 Comments

  1. Avatar

    rhea k

    Hello! Mary Heath’s paper stood out to me. I was intrigued by the definition of a safe space. As a psychology student, I’ve always understood it as a space full of validation and free of disagreement and contradiction. The therapy room is quite easily seen to as an inherently safe space. But I ask, who are we making it safe for? And from whom? Safe spaces resulted when marginalized communities that were not allowed to exist in the mainstream worked towards visiblising themselves. The therapy room only comes close to being safe when therapists acknowledge the politics that birthed safe spaces, and the violent history of psychology and psychiatry. When they unlearn violent treatments, break away from biomedicine, and become aware of their own privileges and powers.

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    Cat Reidy

    Thanks for another thought provoking chapter. I think it’s always worth reflecting on how we can contain, hold, and honour multiple identities. Mary Heath’s experience of having an English teacher who invited her students to form their own opinions resonated deeply and made me think about how powerful ‘just’ asking and ‘just’ listening can be, in all our relationships whether personal or professional.

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    I really enjoyed this section about critical thinking. It actually got me thinking a lot about how I want to raise my kids to be critical thinkers. I especially liked the part about finding “safety” not in others agreeing with us, but feeling safety when we know how to cope when people don’t agree with us. The world needs more of that kind of safety!

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    Critical thinking to me, means to be reflective and analyzing my active contribution to the contexts I sit in and what extent of power I hold around altering this. A practical example of this is engaging in supervision as a social worker. In this space I am encouraged to reflect on my strengths – an often neglect part of my thinking and where I can better improve my practice.

    I think engaging with these materials really highlights the large scale impact, individual reflection can make. If we are open to critical thinking, we open ourselves to more opportunity and to better engage relationally.

    The following is an excerpt from Peggy Mcintosh around critical reflection surrounding white privilege; something which as a white person is important for me to acknowledge.

    “In unpacking this invisible knapsack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily experience which I once took for granted. Nor did I think of any of these prerequisites as bad for the holder. I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some of these varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious, arrogant and destructive.”

    Bree Yerbury,
    Wollongong, NSW, Australia

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    Critical thinking is so often misunderstood. As a teacher, I find this really bothers my students and they take the word criticism to mean harmful and negative. I would like to start using conversations about privilege to discuss what we mean when we think of ableism and how we live and navigate life through our bodies.

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    Jessica Brewer

    Critical thinking to me means to think about a topic/ comment/ situation deeply. After viewing and reading this material, I might have that inner monologue not be so prevalent at times as I do believe that at times I have been quick to “be unable to appreciate the circumstances that create constraints client’s lives”.
    Manteno, IL

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    Marisa from Melbourne/Naarm.

    Critical thinking to me means keeping in mind that while I may think I am attempting to be as objective and free from bias as possible in my dealings with others and in the way I operate in the world – the privileges I am afforded as a white, cis gendered, well educated middle aged Australian woman will deeply influence how I see myself, others and the world and will – in many ways – ‘blind me’ to considering and understanding the perspectives and stories of others who do not enjoy the same privileges I do and have done throughout my life. Unless….I attempt to keep at the forefront of my thoughts that I should always be attempting to think critically about my actions and reactions to others and seek a deeper understanding of myself and others beyond the superficial.

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    critical thinking is a best method to use in practice and understanding the concept of other thinking. I found it interesting as suggested in chapter how one can distinguish their privileges and oppression from others and use a non biased approach to solve the problem

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    Critical thinking to me is about being open to other possibilities. We only know what we know right? But if I’m able to open myself to critique then there is a possibility to see another perspective. A learning opportunity, a chance to improve analyse and fact check. Learning to separate critical thinking from judgement will be crucial in learning from others. I can see particular value when working with other cultures. Constantly asking myself questions, am I viewing this from a perspective of privilege?
    Caroline Myss talks about how we are all in different stages of our journey and uses the analogy of a multi-storeyed apartment building. From the first floor very little can be seen, compared to the penthouse suite. It is good to remember that we can all be looking in the same direction but see something completely different. Caroline, New Zealand.

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    I found this chapter to be very helpful and engaging. Much like Mary Heath described, I was not raised in a culture that valued critical thinking, and her statement that critical thought was “invisible” to her until late adolescence resonated with me. I feel that I, too, realized how limited my understanding of the world was around that same time, and I was able to expand my understanding and seek out the perspectives I had been missing. In terms of examining my privilege, I remember reading “unpacking the invisible knapsack” during my time in college and feeling that the veil had been ripped away. There are so very, very many ways in which my privilege as a white person was completely invisible to me, but now, I find that the differences are so glaring. I realize that I will always have more to learn. Being able to step back and examine what we think and believe, as well as why we believe it, it crucial in being able to stay aware of our biases and work to counter them. I do try to ask myself regularly, why do I think this? Why do I believe this? And trace that thought back to its origin to determine if I feel that it is valid and helpful. I also really appreciated the exercise on privilege which focused on the values of our ancestors, and which we want to pass along versus those we want to acknowledge and leave behind. I think this is such an important way to approach a topic that can make people feel very defensive. Maggie, Los Angeles

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    Critical thinking is so important to ethical practice and can be so challenging as a new practitioner. Trying to find my footing and confidence while intentionally reflecting on how I show up to my practice and in what ways I can do better to be more inclusive and enact my privilege in ways that help rather than harm. I really appreciated the document “An Invitation to Talk About Privilege” and I am hoping to take this to an ethics meeting with those who work at my practice so we can reflect and grow together.

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    I appreciated the post-culturalist discourse, and would love to take this a step further by orienting practice to post-Newtonianism foundation. How can we begin to view our narratives and experience from a quantum perspective, a non-local perspective, a non-finite perspective, a non-individualistic perspective, a non-reductionist perspective? How can we move the conversation forwards in such a way that these concepts become so commonplace that our langauge for them is no longer based on what they are NOT?! Such a stimulating focus for me

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    Katie Brewer

    “Gradually it dawned on me that the way my father saw the world was only one way to see the world, not the only way to see the world.” – Mary Heath
    This quote, for me, sums up critical thinking. The ways that we were taught and shown to look at the world are not the sole ways that the world can be seen. Realizing this is the first step in really thinking critically about how the world has come to be – and what it can become.
    My practice is definitely going to be affected by my engagement with these materials. Mary Heath’s piece on critical thinking is something I will go back to again, in part to ensure that I am continuously questioning and critically examining the systems I exist within and the part I play inside them. Leonie Thomas’ writing on poststructuralism is also really impactful; it’s the most succinct description of poststructuralism that I have found to-date and it will definitely help me when I try to explain my practical approach to others. I wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that our identities are constructed within relationships and that they are continually changing and adapting. It feels like coming home to find works that affirm and elaborate upon ideals that I hold dear.
    Lexington, Kentucky, USA.

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