Critical Thinking

Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in |

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!

  1. I have found this section the most challenging and what will most likely be the most influential for my social work practice, particularly the engaging article causing me to analyse my own privilege and dominance and how this has influenced the way that I work.
    What stood out to me and what I will prioritise to assist me to grow was the importance of collaborative processes with clients and finding allies in this work who are willing to be vulnerable and reflective in order to engage in this thinking and put this into action.

    “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama

  2. Emily, psychotherapist in Austin, TX – I am so glad to read Leonie’s piece! Understanding post-structuralism can be a big task, but incorporating the notion that truly, there are no underlying core truths a person must embody to be fulfilled is validation of a point I’ve always tried to hold close.

    I give this example in session – that at first, an athlete might compare themselves to others – an Olympic runner might at first be competing against faster runners. In time, they might be competing against the recorded times of the very fastest runners. But eventually, they might truly reach the pinnacle of their profession and have only themselves to beat. Do they stop? Of course not! The goal for the runner is always faster, even if they are beating their own time.
    In the therapy room, we identify measuring growth from one’s own measuring stick: if you started a day at 0, getting to 3 is a great day! If you started at 9.9, are you happy? Is 10 the only opportunity for you to feel content? Why is that?

    Thanks for covering this!

  3. Hi, I would just like to say these ideas of critical thinking has been a real eye opener for me as I have never really been a critical thinker. But this has made me more curious and to be stop and think ideas through more constructively and not to just take things at face value. I have really enjoyed the readings on privilege as well and for me helps in my work as well when I counsel people from India or someone from a similar background, it helps me see what struggles they go through and now I am able to recognize this more which is very beneficial to say the least.

  4. Jerome (LONDON) I find the post-structuralist philosophy as being the most helpful thing in terms of critical thinking. Now that I question the given truths and accepted truths , this allows me to be more intellectually critical of research and of theories. Most importantly it means that I am listening to people more in a constructive critical way so that some of their own unhelpful truths might be called in to question. I definitely want to read up more on the philosophy.

  5. Rachael from Melbourne, Australia.

    Critical thinking for me is about thinking outside the box, it is also about being curious about the way things work, the things I think and the things others think / believe. I think that it is important to practice being curious / critical of oneself, that is understanding privilege, understanding and / or questioning where my beliefs and ideas come from. This then allows me to be curious about others and to not assume.

    Stories: My various trainings and interests have encouraged me to be curious and to think critically, going to uni was a big eye opener for me after living a fairly sheltered life, studying science and after that counselling as well as practicing yoga and meditation I think have contributed to my journey of being curious and questioning. This lesson and this course continues to push me along on this journey.

  6. Hello again, this is Lucia from Spain. For me, critical thinking is questioning, not taking things for granted, not thinking that something is correct (or not) just because somebody I admire or someone in a position of power says it is that way. For me, it’s about being objective in each situation and taking a moment to think and look at the opinion, fact, situation, problem or whatever impartially, though it is really hard to put aside our own assuptions, beliefs and values.
    I think the toughest part is start practicing it but, if you try to do it each day, you can get to make it your usual way of thinking and analyzing.
    Loved the chapter, thank you!

  7. Critical thinking means thinking deeply and reflecting on your interactions with others as well as doing self reflection about your own viewpoints, opinions, and decisions. It is this thought process that allows us to create change within our world. Without critical thinking and reflecting in this way nothing would ever change in society and we would not be able to move forward. I believe that in my own life and practice that I must always keep an open mind and refrain from ever viewing any one person as a ‘case’. Since everyone is unique and has their own life story and experiences, you can always learn something new from them, and they have a unique journey. We are always learning and it is important to keep an open mind and to always use critical thinking, reflection, and asking questions to learn more to further our knowledge about the world, our techniques, and ourselves. An image that comes to mind when thinking about critical thinking is a moving river – always flowing, never staying still and never being in the same place twice, yet being everywhere all at once.

  8. For me, critical thinking is the art of engaging in any activity with reflective scepticism in a disciplined, self-directed way. I thought I knew what critical thinking was until I started my counselling course. At first it was difficult to critically self-reflect, after constant practise and reminders, I realise that my curiosity and determination helped me dig a little deeper every day.
    Engagement with these materials has sparked mini explosions in my mind. Giving me more ideas to continue challenging my beliefs and values so that I am always willing to explore new things. The more in-tune I am with myself the more available I will be to provide support for my clients.
    I have a symbol, the flowing yin-yang sign (

  9. Before this chapter I had a basic saying (and story) that connected me to critical thinking that was from a textbook from earlier studies that included an entry from an Occupational Psychologist whom was a CEO of her own corporate company in America. When the psychologist interviewed a prospective employee, she had interviewed him at a restaurant; and while waiting for the meal to be served, she had asked him if he had ever ate at the restaurant previously. He declined, and as the meal arrived, the prospective employee added salt o his meal before he had tasted it. This was grounds for the psychologist to not employ him, as the psychologist believed that critical thinking involved taking in all the available information before making a decision (i.e.; trying his meal before deciding to add the salt).
    Although now I believe the availability of all information would not appear to consciousness unless as a co-author/author we were to take a post-structuralist stance on recovering the information or knowledge. This may have invited the psychologist to ask the question “why did you add the salt?” without concluding with a belief that may not be an accurate event. Alternatively, the prospective employee may come from a culture that doesn’t add salt in their cooking techniques until after the meal is presented, or other alternative stories that may not appear available at the time.
    This form of critical thought I feel I have used in this analysis appears to reinforce a lot of narrative beliefs and values for myself; a post-structuralist stance, questioning the influence of power and interpretation, and the belief that as humans we are continually cognitively changing (or beliefs and direction). The meaning of critical thinking to myself would be the investigation of “separating sense from nonsense” (Ruscio, 2006), using a deductive and then inductive reasoning strategy (Rene Descartes’s scientific method), with the knowledge of the potential dangers that arises from a single story.
    Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts,
    Cheers, Shane Thomson, Busselton, Western Australia

  10. Critical thinking to me means the taking of risks and the opportunity to break down barriers.
    It gives me the opportunity to give the women I meet in my work positive affirmations and feedback when they identify the difficulties they are experiencing eg. “who else knows how hard you are working on living a life free of abuse”.
    Stories: I grew up in the 50’s/60’s and although my parents were ‘good people’ they were also a part of a culture that were prejudiced, ignorant and racist. I sometimes wondered if my grandparents were of the same ilk because when I heard my parents speak it sounded ‘parrot fashion’ During the 70’s I had the opportunity to travel and found myself excited and stimulated by new languages, cultures, history and experiences. I returned to Australia feeling more confident and seeking change through participation in marches against the Vietnam War, women’s equality, a patriarchal society and Aboriginal Rights to name a few.
    I was also hungry for knowledge.

  11. What does ‘critical thinking’ mean to you?

    To me, critical thinking is a process where ideas and situations are examined in the context of my understandings and beliefs. It is a process where my values and beliefs may be challenged, where my habitual ways of thinking are recognised and I decide if the new idea fits within my existing structures and whether I can assimilate the idea into my belief systems (and I need to clear up any contradictory ideas to do so) or whether I feel that the new idea does not hold truth for me in which case I reject it. Other times after undergoing critical thinking for a new idea I may give it a probationary period to see whether it is valuable for me and if it achieves positive benefits, in which case I keep it, or otherwise discard it if it is not helpful.

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

    I would like to continue challenging my beliefs and values through critical thinking, I do not believe I have everything nailed down to my liking so I am willing to explore and try new things.

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

    As a child I wondered if I was the only real person and that everyone else I interacted with was somehow defined by my experience with them. I have now learnt that it is typical for children as they develop to hold this sort of worldview and of course most of us grow out of it as we develop empathy. When I learnt that other people have their own lives, I realised that though I placed a lot of value on my self, I wasn’t exceptional (and that everyone else has their own world that they carry with them).

  12. What does critical thinking mean to me?
    For me, critical thinking is a scientific process. A cognitive activity of scientific exploration, which involves making judgments based on fact and evidence that have been well considered in a process of enquiry, using questioning techniques and drawing conclusions from these. There is a place: for some element of skepticism ( in the sense that blind belief of what someone says can be dangerous to truth/facts/evidence); for curiosity (it is important to desire knowledge about what is being explored in order to better understand with greater depth and breadth of what ever the curiosity is), to know about something or more information; and humbleness to challenge ones own thinking and standpoint in the face of evidence to the contrary. In therapy it involves shared humanness, experiences and courage from a place of great positivity!

    How might your practice be different on account of your engagement with these materials?
    I find it is usually refreshing and affirming in many instances to engage in materials full of others knowledge and experiences in the area of Therapy, where we are privileged guests on an exploration of another person(s) life journey. This is because we have been invited along for the purpose of supporting someone in need to critically think and analyse their own journey with assistance from another perspective in a professional, sensitive and respectful way. How this might impact difference in my practice requires that I have more time to consider this point.

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

    How can a round peg fit into a square hole?

  13. Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.

    To me critical thinking means being constantly reflective. Not just in my practice but in my life. Eg. if I feel confronted by something or someone I dig deep and question why I felt confronted – what assumptions were challenged – what can I learn from the person or situation – what can I do differently or what adjustments do I need to make to thinking and behaviors?

    I will do some further reading and thinking on the ideas and topics touched on here, especially critical thinking and how I use it in my life and in my practice. Perhaps the questions to be considered are: ‘Do I use it in my practice in a way that fully supports my clients journey and my own?’ and ‘How can I strengthen my critical thinking to do that?’ The answers to both these questions could offer opportunities to make changes that could benefit both my clients and myself.

    I went to a course which was being offered at the Psychosynthesis Foundation in London some years ago. In large letters at the top of the whiteboard for each session were the words: ‘THIS IS NOT THE TRUTH’
    to remind us that nothing is fixed or immutable and everything can be questioned or challenged.

    I am a Quaker and we have a little book of Advices & Queries which invites us to constantly examine where we are in our lives and how we live them. One of the Queries ends with the advice to ‘Hold that you may be mistaken’ about what we think and any opinions that we have.

    Both these short sayings constantly encourage me to appraise and re-appraise both what I am offered and what I offer in living my life every day.

  14. This lesson confirmed my understanding of the cross-cultural and cross-life situational nature of understanding and meaning. I wonder if things work best when the therapist are positioned in a more homogeneous setting where similar power structures on shared and understood? If you are not able to do this, you need to be very self-aware of the power structures.

  15. For me, as a practitioner, “critical thinking” means taking the time to “step back” and critically reflect on the values, opinions and positions of power and privilege that shape and influence my practice.

    In reflecting on these materials, I am encouraged to be more mindful of my interactions with the communities I work with (migrants and former refugees), particularly in terms of how they might see (as a “white Australian” or “expert” in a position of privilege).

    However, I too came to Australia as a migrant (my parents escaped from Poland during communism and were granted asylum in Australia), which gave me a first-hand insight into the prejudice and discrimination that migrants face.

    By sharing this personal history with the communities I work with, I am able to identify a “common ground” on which to work from, while acknowledging the unique and diverse challenges of their individual journeys, as well as reminding them that I am not the “expert,” but they are the experts of their own lives.

  16. For me this chapter ads depth to previous chapters and ties up with the previous. Through narrative lenses people have multiple stories in their lives and behind all those stories is a unique context which reflects those stories and the persons identity. Gaining an understanding of the persons “suitcase” requires one to think holistically lead by the person as the expert. I believe if the person is not given the opportunity to this or the worker does not take into account multiple storylines assumptions and shift of power takes dominance.

    I am ” privileged” to have experienced being ” unprivileged” based on my culturally and linguistically diverse background. As a child I migrated from Australia to a small Scandinavian country, Finland. I didn’t speak Finnish, was a child of a single parent and had no idea of the school/ social norms. In the 1970’s changing of attitude, awareness, knowledge and acceptance towards multiculturalism weren’t issues a small Northern ” in-closed” country had to deal with previously. Although having Caucasian appearance, I was seen as different, someone who dis not belong to the dominant society. At school I was “punished” for not being able to communicate appropriately, I was isolated from the class room to study individually as ” I caused distraction”. Assumptions were made about my cognitive and social skills, negative assumptions were made about my overall wellbeing and my mother’s parental capacity as a single parent. I had not been seen, listened to, treated as a young child with mixed feelings – fearful of a completely different culture, language, social norms, cultural norms – a child full of energy to become included, skills to learn the language,courage to make new friends, wish to feel safe and accepted at school. In today’s world the situation would be entirely different,small Skandinavian countries are as multicultural as other Westernised countries. Therefore I value ” critical thinking” – to get to know a person’s storyline before making those critical assumptions and using the so often ” unseen power” over someone.

  17. Critical thinking to me is about reflecting on why I said something, could I have said or done anything else. This chapter made me see that it has much to do with privileges.Even in my work as a therapist I am privileged towards clients because I am “the problem expert”. However the client is much more “the expert of his own life”.Therapie is about the stories of people: listening, being curious, examining, thickening.Being aware of privileges can help me avoid interpreting and judging.
    So this chapter is a valuable help in improving therapieskills.

  18. The readings in this chapter raised issues that point directly back towards myself; how willing I am to question assumptions, delve more deeply into the truth of others’ experiences, leave myself open to being challenged, but above all, reminding myself – as often as possible – that my experiences, whether from a perspective of privilege (primarily as white, educated, multi-lingual and well-traveled) – is so vastly different from most people with whom I engage.
    I say “most people” because, over the past 6 years, I’ve lived on an island whose culture and traditions(including language, transference of knowledge, interactions, etc) are, in many ways, so utterly foreign to mine. As I live in a village, surrounded by locals (and expats), I’m constantly being reminded that my perspective, expectations, knowledges, are not the norm in this part of the world. This daily ‘taking stock’ facilitates a deeper appreciation for genuine difference, for self-inquiry, for questioning my ability to see through a different lens.
    Many thanks for more insightful readings!

  19. Sydney, Australia

    Thanks very much for the excellent articles in this chapter which were thought-provoking, engaging and illuminating.

    It is also relevant to consider ways in which privilege may be nuanced. For example, some of my identity constructions sit inside of privilege and others sit outside of privilege. The unique constellation of identities arising from this intersectionality is central to shaping how I look and what I will find. This too informs my capacity as a therapist to relate to other people’s experiences and opens further discoveries about this important topic.

  20. What does ‘critical thinking’ mean to you?
    To me, critical thinking is a call to constantly locate myself and to be mindful of, if not, question the lenses that I use when I engage in any sort of inquiry.

    How might your practice be different on account of your engagement with these materials?
    I think this has been a timely reminder to myself to maintain my links with colleagues outside of my profession as part of my attending to perspectives different from my own.

    Do you have any stories or sayings that keep you connected to ‘critical thinking’?
    “Hold your hypothesis lightly – it’s easier to let go if it’s found wanting.”

  21. I absolutely loved this section! It was so powerful and inspiring and has helped me to move forward in a lot of questions I have about myself and my work, which I feel quite pressing these days.

    It is really helpful to think about critical thinking in a way that is separated to criticism. I used to differ between constructive and destructive criticism in the past, but I find much more meaning and support in the notion of critical thinking as ‘a way of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it!’. It is very much connected to my desire to ‘learn from the past, so that we can do better in the future’ and I feel, that a lot of my colleagues including me might feel less fearful to come together in ways of ‘critical thinking’, rather than ‘criticism and feedback’; together with the idea of ‘the problem is the problem, not the person is the problem.’ There it is – a fresh start for the next year!

    I’m also thinking about inviting my colleagues to discuss the project to address privilege and dominance. I would love to go on a journey together and talk about one set of questions maybe once a week or twice a month, like it is suggested in the readig material. I feel it could really improve our work-environment and -practice in a spirit of shared collaboration, accountability, compassion and mindfulness towards the dominance and privilege that inform our work-environment and -practice, so that we re-produce it as less as possible or maybe not at all; and so that our primary accountability and the primary agencies is based with the communities we work with, rather than with any external factors or only those who have leadership-positions in these communities. I also love the way of how questions and approaches are framed in the project and feel that it might be able to avoid the defensiveness that I often encounter when I try to approach questions of power and privilege. I am so passionate about these questions (and anxious not to contribute to power-struggles and power-inequalities) and about ‘learning from the past, so that we can do better in the future’, that I sometimes feel like I’m ‘over-running’ people. It has made me feel like quite a failure and like I couldn’t have compassion anymore with others or myself in recent weeks. Now this project and everything I have learned from this session give me great hope to do better in the future – with myself and others.

    What keeps me connected is this: yes, I am a feminist and I think about the world a lot in terms of power and gender. And sometimes I am absolutely exhausted and in despair. I wish I could just switch it off and relax while watching a movie or reading a book, instead of having a commentary run in my mind that deconstructs characters and story-lines accordig to inequalities of power and gender and more. But I can’t switch it off – just like I can’t switch off ongoing inequality and violence in our society. It’s not feminism or critical thinking, which don’t allow me to catch a break, it is the violence and inequality in our society.

  22. Critical thinking much like post structuralism invites me to challenge myself and my dominant discourse, in order to understand that there are multiple discourses rather that just one truth.

    By engaging with these materials I have learnt that I would need to have an ethical and accountable practice which would at times be at odds with the dominant discourse. My first step would be separate the person from the problem.

    The person is not the problem. The problem is the problem.

  23. Critical thinking is asking yourself? how does this make you feel and what impact does this have on my life, my morals & values, my community? Where did these idea’s stem from? what will i do with these new found knowledges?

    I really liked the last article’s on poststructuralism. I think i could use the table as a way to check in and reflect on my own poststructuralist practices.I also liked “we are in the business of assisting people in the creation and recreation of their identities”and that this identity is created in relationship to others.

  24. Hi, I’m Susie, from London UK. I work with people who have an experience of psychosis in the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK.

    I found the Mary Heath paper so refreshing to hear a first person account of critical thinking. There are similarities in my journey of critical thinking, in that I was subject to sexism and my psychological survival depending on me learning to question this. Questioning assumptions, prejudices then became an academic pursuit in my late adolescence. I wonder whether lots of critical thinkers were subject to prejudice? I do think a barrier to critical thinking is exhaustion and wanting to be comfortable. I remember a childhood friend in her initial feminist readings wanting there to be an end. It’s so tiring having the ground shift under your feet. I wonder what support we might offer each other on our journeys of raised consciousness?

  25. “Why?” our children ask repeatedly.What a shame we tend to lose that sense of wonder/curiosity as we become adults and the everyday encroaches.Critical thinking for me,is to almost become willfully ignorant,to assume nothing,to question.That questioning includes ourselves in relation to others.”Unless we routinely examine the operation of power and our own place,we won’t notice how we can inadvertently impose our ways of thinking on the people we work with” Salome Raheim. The word “routinely” was important for me,to make this a regular practice. “Questions I ask of people,I ask of myself”

  26. Emmalene, Tweed Coast

    I was really taken with the ideas detailed in Mary Heath’s paper, particularly the dimensions she proposes around employing tools of critical thinking. There was a sense of not taking the dominant idea’s as most correct and this encouraged me to feel energised about the way in which I challenge clients in my clinic. I find often that clients second guess themselves and often provide a perspective of how they think I might understand their problems (ie ‘I went out all weekend and didn’t take my medications, therefore I had a bad weekend’ in truth it wasn’t a ‘bad weekend’ at all if the client considers that they made choices that they felt were best for them at the time). I find this often occurs around self harm or suicidal gestures too, the perspective that they must feel guilty and are often punished by others for trying to manage their problems with these strategies.

    I found the ideas around privilege harder to connect with. I feel that the core ideas about what parts of the story we privilege, sit neatly in my framework. But in honesty, the ideas about white privilege etc are not as relevant in my context and feel like a bit of ‘over thinking’ and this juncture in my career and context.

  27. Eskasoni, Unamaki (Cape Breton)

    For me critical thinking is an essential practice, not only ethically in that it ensures that I am giving accurate and relevant information, but also as a way to make room for generating new ideas and ways of understanding a given story. It is generative because often facts are presented as such: one-dimensional, without context or nuance and unquestionable. When these are transformed into stories, ideas and paradigms through which we can see the world, we can move between these lenses and understand that one is useful. However, one lens can only give us one truth among many.

    These materials make room for me to better understand and begin to question the applicability of my context and story to others. I have lived a unique experience. However, as is pointed out by Salome Raheim, I am very much priveledged in most senses. I am white, speak English, am educated, I have financial resources (employed, able to save, have family support) and, even live in a stable, democratic country. With the notable exception of being female, the article on privelege helped me glimpse the degree to which I could be effecting others as I enter their home. For example, I work in a First Nations community that struggles with oppression from mainstream culture and all of the ramifications of historical abuse. I do home visits and know that even before someone knows my name I am coming in with priveledge as the assumption will be that I am educated, white and perhaps assumed that I am an “expert” and have come to “fix” their child and “evaluate” their family functioning. So many assumptions that can carry with them fear of being judged or resignation that being judged and evaluated is the only way to help their child.

    Ways that keep me connected with critical thinking is how my mother described her work as a mediator: I don’t know anything yet. In other words, make no assumptions and seek the heart and soul of a concern (or conflict) with curiosity and the knowledge that you (as a professional) will never hold the answers. Those can only be accessed by the people in the situation who have to carry out whatever commitment is made.

    I am also reminded of many assumptions I have made that have turned out to be detrimental to the situation. For example, I was working in this First Nations community with a little girl and her mother on helping the little girl be motivated to try out different sounds and words to build on her language skills. As is often suggested, I asked the mom if she would be comfortable singing songs to her daughter like “itsy bitsy spider” and “twinkle twinkle little star”. When I asked the mother how the singing was going, she said that it was ok, but she could only repeat the first couple of lines of the songs. She had not been raised with English nursery rhymes. In fact, songs were more sung as a group at pow wows as opposed to children to entertain them. Although willing, and doing her best to fulfill my suggestion, she did not know the words.

    This story helps me to step back and realize the depth of some of my assumptions and how my priveledge as a service provider coming into the home can mean that parents are less comfortable saying that they do not know how to do what I’m asking and may assume that any adaptations they made to it would be wrong or not good enough or too silly to suggest to me.

  28. For me ‘examining assumptions’ is one of the key parts of critical thinking: looking harder – at anything and everything – to see what is implicit.

    Do I have any stories or sayings that keep me connected to ‘critical thinking’ …?

    The first thing that springs to mind is that lately I’ve been trying to catch the fugitive, knee-jerk thoughts, or the shadowy, less explicit thoughts that scoot too quickly through my mind sometimes. I’ve been trying notice those thoughts more, and tell myself: Stop – Back up – What did you just think?

    Almost inevitably, these are the thoughts that I’d rather not think – that are at odds with the beliefs or motivations that I WANT to have.

    I’ve been trying to force myself to face them, acknowledge them, and challenge them. It’s not necessarily that easy. I suppose persistence is part of the key?

  29. Being a new graduate the influences of power and importance of critical reflection is still in the forefront of my mind. So I found this section as a reminder more than learning something new.
    I did appreciate Mary Heath’s strategies for self-reflection as there were a number of thought provoking questions that I could ask myself. I appreciated Leonie Thomas’ simplified explanation of Structuralism and post-structuralism. I resonated with Thomas’ comment that ” what we are looking for, what we believe and where we come from will shape both how we look and what we’ll find”. I think this will be the quote that reminds me of the importance of critical reflection. I am going to share the quote with my peer reflection group for further pondering.

    Tasmania, Australia

  30. Hello,
    I very much like the subject on critical thinking. What it means to me is the way in which I think about how im being thought-out (the discourses i am engage to). This help me to situate how i am relating to others (participants, parents, friends, etc.) and how i relate to myself. On the other hand, what keeps me connected to critical thinking is the way i see ,and engage, with concepts (structuralist or poststructuralist) and what are the conditions and relations of power that i am embedded in.

  31. I can confirm to Mary Heath that in writing in the first person she allowed me to think about my own stories of privilege (white, male, heterosexual and professional), as I too was brought up in the sixties (and fifties) in an Australia that ‘was not a very reflective place’. It made me reflect on the extent to which I make sure my assumptions are accurate and my actions have the results I want them to have (a great outcome definition of critical thinking by Brookfield). More broadly the article encouraged me to reflect on the extent to which I relinquish critical thinking to be ‘relaxed and comfortable’, I remain silent and I embrace ‘passivity’. But in doing so, Mary Heath encourages me not to beat up on myself, not to ‘slip into self-loathing or into an unhelpful degree of self-reproach’. Rather I need to move into letting my self-reflection support ‘awareness and function’ and trigger how I can support and amplify this through collaborative endeavours, rather than an individual enterprise, seeking ‘other people’s intelligence and the diversity of perspectives’ so I can better notice the assumptions I am making. I love Heath’s reference to b. hooks idea of how instead of working on the assumption that we are safe when everyone agrees, we ‘think of safety as knowing how to cope in situations of risk’ so that ‘we open up the possibility that we can be safe in situations where there is disagreement or even conflict’.
    The project initiated by Salome Raheim (‘an invitation to narrative practitioners to address privilege and dominance’) is a terrific tool for analysis, greatly assisting my own self-reflection. My key learning is similar to one of the reflections: while it may be helpful to understand other’s experiences of marginalisation by focussing on those elements of my own experience in which I have felt marginalised, it is through understanding more about my own privilege that can open possibilities for me to recognise other’s experiences.
    The article (‘Poststructuralism and therapy—what’s it all about’) coordinated by Leonie Thomas has greatly assisted me in clarifying the distinction between ‘structuralism’ and ‘poststructuralism’ with terrific examples and questions. This is grist for the mill in a how we live, our way of being in this world.
    Brisbane, Australia

  32. Good afternoon.
    Reading through this marvelous material these questions came to my mind:
    – What kind(s) of mind setting(s) and belief system(s) would be most useful to broaden more and more our awareness of how realities are socially created and influenced by our ways of thinking, speaking etc.?
    – How can our thoughts and our words and attitudes become more shaped by aspects of love not only in adulthood but from the very beginning of our lives?

  33. Sky
    Whitsundays, Australia

    This was an excellent chapter with such a wide range of material. Critical thinking forms such a fundamental basis of sound ethical practice, it is such a privilege to work as therapists that I feel we have a responsibility to continue to look critically at the approaches we use, our values and assumptions, the ‘expert’ opinions we encounter and the research and information we read.

    So often in practice I have people come to me with information they have encountered through family, friends, the internet, TV, reading etc that they have applied to themselves without first making a critical appraisal to see if it has merit or true worth for them at this point in time.

    To prompt critical thinking I use a simple set of questions adapted from Byron Katie that can apply to our (or a client’s) thoughts and assumptions or external information:

    Ask yourself- Is it true?
    Do you Absolutely know that it is true?
    How does this thought make you feel?
    What would you be without this thought?

    Modelling and teaching critical thinking skills can form a very empowering part of our therapy interactions and is invaluable in assessing our own work and how we can move forward. I found this chapter to be a wonderful refresher that introduced new views of great value.

  34. Whitsundays, Australia

    For me, critical thinking encapsulates what I think of as continually asking the ‘why’ to my and others thoughts, actions and assumptions. Its a phrase, the more I engage in practice the more I find visually popping into my head. Mary Health’s writing struck a cord with me as I also have a legal background and have found that though I often think in the ‘why’, I have not been taught to write in this manner, instead I am drawn to writing in a distant, removed manner – with the idea of presenting the evidence in a factual, ‘neutral’ manner. Of course in reality this just veils my assumptions and perspectives inherent in my writing.

    Great chapter, thank you for the resources.

  35. Newcastle, Australia
    I have a philosophical background and I’m studying to become a Philosophical Counsellor. It’s really exciting to me discover how many intersections there are with Narrative Practice.
    Critical thinking means to me be always in movement: is the dynamics of thinking and is the engine of our life as rational beings. I really appreciated the last document of this chapter about Poststructuralism. I have discovered the influence that philosophy has had on shapes the idea of therapy and narrative practice. A key concept to me is that “our identities are made up and continually being made up of many, sometimes contradictory, stories”.

  36. Alberton, South Africa
    This was certainly a very meaty chapter with so much to consider!
    For me critical thinking is an ongoing act of thinking about our ways of thinking (lot of thinking happening!) It is being constantly aware of our assumptions that are rooted in our own history of culture, privileged, dominance and sometimes even in our own ignorance. In order to think critically, we have a responsibility to learn more about the world outside of our own circle.
    Salome Raheim’s articles on privilege and dominance really made me think critically about my interactions with others and what I take for granted and will therefore have a great influence on my practice and my family life.
    I only became aware, after reading the materials, that I assume dominance in my family home and therefore have certain privileges that I assumed to be my right. I have been a single mother for a long time and have a son. I assumed the role of the head of the house and therefore it was a role of dominance. I remarried when my son was already older and was still the only person with an income in the home and retained my attitude of dominance based on that privilege. Our home is being run on a matriarchal system. I make decisions without consulting the men in the house. I assign roles and divide tasks and I have never even thought of that until I studied these materials! Looking at it now, I am astonished that I never realized this and never considered the effects this has on my family. If I have to be honest, I am sexist within my family context! Shocking discovery! I will certainly consciously and critically think about this and will invite my family to share their thoughts on how this impacted on their lives.
    Thank you, this was a very tough and thought provoking chapter that led to quite a bit of introspection!

  37. Wow what a powerful teaching of the importance of Critical Thinking in Narrative Practices. I particularly loved Mary Heath’s article on relating to critical thinking I was drawn to her experience in a meaningful way that really revealed the true essence of critical thinking and critique.

    In looking to apply critical thinking further in my practice I am considering the barriers to critical thinking such as cultural disapproval, and the confusion between criticism more. Specifically how I can help breakdown these barriers and open up clients to building greater skills of CT. Additionally I am eager to seek new ways to open clients to think critically about areas of their narratives that are burdened by the restraints of culture. Namely those that overlook CT practices out of fear or misunderstanding.

    Thanks for a great chapter

  38. The discussions on “privilege” were especially thought-provoking for me. I intend to really delve into the materials provided at a much greater depth so I can apply it to my practice. Thank you for an eye-opening segment!

  39. When I consider the whole notion of “critical thinking” in practice as a counsellor, I am immediately reminded that I have (and will always have) certain biases that require me to use discipline in order to offer my clients my best objective self. I like to think of myself as a midwife, helping others birth their solutions, dreams, etc. That makes my role clearer. I think a good “midwife” takes direction from what is happening with the client so I try to be acutely attuned to body language, words, gestures, etc. so I can ask the right questions. It is all about questions, isn’t it? Crafting carefully just the right question at the right time requires critical thinking and total engagement in the process.

  40. I found Mary Heath’s tool of Examining Silences in her article on Critical Thinking thought-provoking. I am always focussed on listening to what my clients say, but I’d like to consider who is silent, who is not allowed to speak, and why. Many clients have beliefs about themselves which inform their current narrative. These beliefs are quite entrenched and it seems at times, they do not give themselves permission to apply critical thinking to these beliefs. To take the position of examining the silences with the client might be an interesting way to open up a conversation about an alternative and preferred story.

  41. I really loved this chapter, clarifying the concept of critical thinking and exploring structuralism and post structuralism. I found the table particularly useful! I started to look at myself and my relationship with a family member who has been through a rough time recently and I found the post-structural approach made so much sense.

  42. Critical thinking, to me, is a process of reflection of one’s own thoughts, assumptions and actions as also those of others with the aim of growth and development. It therefore includes not only appreciation but constructive feedback to oneself and others with the idea of facilitating thinking beyond the existing framework.

    The ideas of Post structuralism have really caught my attention. I have always admired Foucault’s writings. It was interesting to see these perspectives being adapted to the field of therapy. While I have been using a poststructuralist perspective in my practice, Leonie Thomas’ document has helped me identify the significance of particular concepts like that of an evolving identity in therapy. It has also got me thinking about how as a therapist I have to put to use these poststructuralist ideas to myself. While I critically appraise myself and go through a process of self-reflection, it is significant to remember that my identity as a therapist too is changing and contextual.

    Here’s to critical thinking! 🙂


  43. Being mindful always of asking ourselves and others questions is perhaps one of the keys of critical thinking. By asking ourselves questions, we can pulse-check our own assumptions and viewpoints and be on the lookout for the biases that may unconsciously form our thinking. To ask questions of the client not only provides them with the opportunity to verbalise their thoughts and experiences, it also enables the therapist to guide the conversation in a positive direction, to focus on those stories which are positive and empowering, and to direct the client gently away from any biases they may have towards harsh, unhelpful self-criticism.

    Mary Heath talks about the importance of examining silences: who is silent? why? who is not allowed to speak? why? When we consider the many biases caused by those who speak from positions of unacknowledged or unaddressed privilege or prejudice, we begin to have a sense of the enormous number and variety of individuals and social cohorts that may make up “the silent.”

    The 2013 investigation into bullying and harassment in the Australian military more than brought to light the dangers of a culture of silencing. At the time, the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison stated: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.

    Critical thinking requires honesty, trust, respect, courage and initiative. As critical thinkers, it is perhaps our duty to ensure that we do not allow ourselves to become one of the silent, and that we speak up in the face of social (and other) injustices.

  44. For me critical thinking is about not blindly going with one point of view, but considering different options, angles and views. I will have an opinion or core thought about the subject at the end, but I know this will have come from engaing in critical thinking. This is not an easy thing to do and the writings on privilege really brought home to me that my critical thinking about things is guided by the privileges I have and those I don’t have.

    I found the privilege writings very thought provoking and I realise I have not engaged with thinking about privilege in this depth before – a sign of my personal privilege. This is an area I will be working on and developing in my work and personal life.

    I think for me both critical thinking and privilege merged most poignantly in Mary Heath’s paper where she talks about ‘Examining Silences’ the ideas about the ‘differences in what each voice contributes…who is silent or not listened to…does the way we speak create silence?’. I will be keeping these thoughts in mind when working with others.

    Finally, this chapter reminded me of a quote in a book that I often return to called A Systemic Approach Consultation (Campbell, Draper and Huffington, 1991). The authors suggest consultation is ‘akin to moving the observer to a different position so that the landscape is seen from a different perspective’.

    Thank you for such a thought provoking chapter.

  45. Critical thinking for me is what historian Marc Bloch once defined as “methodically doubting”. This does not mean having a suspicious or superstitious attitude but it means to constantly questioning thoughts, facts, assumptions, experiences. This means to me a constant effort to go beyond stereotypes and taken-for-granted ideas. This means to have the courage to accept the complexity of our world and to not fear the risk of “going lost” in exploring it.

  46. For me, critical thinking means to think about a problem, idea or structure in a way that allows us to reflect on various perspectives, to question, to deconstruct assumptions, to think about power dynamics, and to think about potential outcomes from a similar framework. I really enjoyed the article on critical thinking, and am looking forward to bell hook’s book on critical thought as well. I do find that there is a profound sense of confusion between critical thinking and being critical, and that this confusion can dominate the social work and US-leftist discourse, which I don’t find helpful, and sometimes seems to be part of a Typology of Violence, rather than Peace. I also enjoyed learning about structuralism and post structuralism, and while I do agree with the subjectivity piece, I will say that it is VERY difficult for me to break out of the structuralist notion of having some internal deep structure that guides behavior. I wonder how a narrative therapist understands and/or works with children who do not yet have language. How do narrative therapists understand temperament? I think for me, I’m open to challenging my structuralist-leaning orientation, but I’d need more answers!

    I think as far as a story, I will borrow from commenter above Jas Walker, No ice picks needed for peeling! Do Peace instead.

  47. I enjoyed the conversation on structuralism and post-structuralism in this chapter – I didn’t really know much about the differences prior to this.
    I think that having an awareness of from which angle I am approaching a conversation will really help me take a step back and work from a more balanced viewpoint.

    I think it is easy to get caught in a trap of peeling away the layers to get to the root of an issue, when the tools I am using are not being kept clean or are actually fit for the job.
    Be aware when I am peeling an onion with a scythe rather than an onion peeler. 🙂

  48. Critical thinking is being able to think clearly and objectively about a situation.

    What I found most useful was the reflection on privilege. I felt that my life was rather ‘unprivileged’ until I understood the meaning of privilege and how it may impact on my practice, and even personal relationships.

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