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 169 Comments

  1. Kim Leebody

    What does ‘critical thinking’ mean to you? To me critical thinking is about being curious. It’s about looking at how as societies we search for truth, when in fact their is only perspective. Each perspective connected to the Social Graces.

    How might your practice be different on account of your engagement with these materials?
    The materials are a reminder to me to question understanding and to more acutely look for power and social constructs in every interaction I have. I think that it will be important for me in my work to assist people to understand oppression, prejudice and how these constructs May have disempowered and marginalised them.

    Do you have any stories or sayings that keep you connected to ‘critical thinking’?
    In relation to myself, I keep my connectedness to critical thinking by reminding myself that truth does not exist and that every story that I witness is based on my understanding, my position and positioning. I know that the story told and the story heard is dependant on a range of factors. I suppose my way of doing this in my work on a daily basis is to critically reflect either by myself of a team member or members who can question my practice and allow for critical thinking.


    Hello, it’s Kay from Hong Kong. I was always looking for something about therapy that intrigues me in a way that I will look deep into that particular practice of therapy and start practising it once I have finished. Sad to say, I couldn’t find it til I have come across with the free online course and not until after reading this chapter I know, why narrative therapy has so intrigued me in a way that I want so much to study it after so many years of graduation from university.

    I’m thrilled that I have found this course as I find it suits me and many of the people (particularly kids) that I’m helping them to understand themselves because this course provides me opportunities to have a look back to my journey of my life and I found it’s so comforting as what it is described here resonates my journey here in Hong Kong.

    Once there’s a friend asking me why there are so many -ists now as it was used to be just some very typical professionals. Now, I know how to answer:

    Poststructuralism has widened the gaps of societies and norms that we people are actually more complicated that just a fixed structure. We are shaped by different backgrounds, stories and people/events/languages that we are meeting/attending/using. That’s why we now have so many -ists here as it fits not only me, but the world as we are with wide range of varieties of lives and people.

  3. Alex

    Adding to that, I also very much appreciated Leonie Thomas’s reminder 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.”

  4. Alex

    Reflecting on the questions posed…
    • What does ‘critical thinking’ mean to you?
    From these materials, to me it means more about self-awareness. Awareness of my habitual, unquestioned thinking, and unchecked assumptions, about circumstances and events, about others and myself.
    • How might your practice be different on account of your engagement with these materials?
    I think it laves me determined to be more attentive to my own thinking, as well as hints and leaks of others thinking and experiences.

    The materials on privilege will also feed into changes in my practice. Reflecting on some of those questions…
    • What is it that you are feeling ashamed, guilty, and/or sad about?
    I find myself feeling guilty about my lack of self-awareness, and sad about the impact my language and ways of living may have had on others. As someone who’s lived and worked in multiple countries, I think my feelings of shame arise from becoming aware that I might not be the kind of person I wanted to believe I was.

    • Often when someone feels shame and/or guilt, this shame and guilt represents certain values that you feel you have let down, that you have strayed from. What values do you think you have strayed from?
    The values I wonder if I’ve strayed from are about being aware of my own cultural assumptions, being attuned to differences in experience and perceptions of others, and an awareness that I’ve never seriously recognised the ‘normals’ of my life as privilege. They were invisible to me. The readings have left me even more determined to listen to others differently, and check out my assumptions.

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