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 159 Comments

  1. Maverick

    Writing from so-called Burnaby Canada.
    I think it is so important for us as therapists and counsellors to recognize both the privileges and marginalization that we hold. Having an understanding of our power, our influence, and how it will affect the counselling relationship allows us to be more mindful in addressing this imbalance in session. We hold inherent power as a service provider, how do we address it? How do we make sure we aren’t holding it over our clients?

    For me, I want the folks I work with to know that they can always give me feedback especially on the power dynamics and harm that can come from it.

  2. Rebecca

    Working in Brisbane Australia, this chapter was a good reminder of the biases that we bring to our work and suitable to promote self-examination. As our clients are richly diverse in race, gender, background and experience this chapter assists us to be mindful of the client sitting in front of us and to pursue the expertise within each of them for their own situation.

  3. Hannah R

    Hi, I’m Hannah, a junior doctor from Bristol (UK). I really enjoyed this thought provoking chapter. Critical thinking means, to me, having an awareness of our own privileges and biases and how these may influence our thoughts and actions. I was particularly struck by the quote: “If I want to live an ethical life…then I need to be actively seeking to understand the ways in which I wield power, the places I hold un-examined privilege, the prejudices I have unthinkingly acquired”. I aim to take this forward with me into my practice. I have also found the concept of examining power dynamics (or “flows of power”) helpful in keeping me connected to critical thinking.

  4. Kate C

    Kate from Melbourne
    I was surprised by how much I liked and connected with this topic. It can feel a little academic at first which is why Mary Heath’s piece, prefaced with an autobiography of her critical thinking journey was a good introduction. I really like the reflective, eyes open approaches the ‘Invitation to think about Privilege’ gave me. I saw myself in the individual hardship conflation with my life while looking the other way at times to the privileges I have. My practice in my current role – which is not as a therapist – is to meet each client where they are. To attempt understanding but most of all to remove my own ego from the process. So often we think our role is important -to ourselves and our clients, and therefore we are important. But of course another worker could do the same role with better or worse results. I try to remove myself – in the sense of my background, prejudices and yes maintain awareness of my privileges when I speak to clients.
    Beyond this however, I think the articles are a call to work more collaboratively with clients and co-workers, to not feel it’s ones’ personal crusade since the paradigm so many privileges exist in are reinforced by institutions. The essays have encouraged me to speak up at work and, with others to start and keep a conversation going, on privilege as part of self development, best practice and awareness and acknowledgement.

  5. Kelly

    Kelly, Canada,

    My go-to questions are “How do I know/ how did I learn this?”, “Is it true? Is it true now?” “What else is true?” “Is this a helpful version of truth? What is a more helpful version?”

  6. Rhianne

    Rhianne (Brisbane, Australia)
    I hadn’t considered critical thinking as a skill for looking at my own privilege before. I had only really thought about it from an academic perspective in terms of learning, gathering that information and then presenting that information. It makes sense though to think critically about ourselves and our ways of working. I found the questions in the Invitation to Narrative Practitioners to Address Privilege interesting. In unpacking my own privilege I don’t feel like I am overtly the product of my cultural heritage. I couldn’t even tell you what it is. I’m sure my life has been influenced by my heritage but it would take some deep diving to find out how. I guess that’s kind of the point.

  7. Bill Sinclair, USA

    I have really enjoyed exploring these ideas. I am continuing to think about how engaging with a group takes the focus off of what any one individual thinks about an issue and opens the doorway to hearing many points of view allow each to arrive at their own understanding after exploring many realities.

  8. Jasmine

    I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Critical thinking is the key to our practice as it is a skill that provides richness, openness, and a non-judgemental perspective for our clients. Salome Raheim challenges us to look at privilege in our personal lives and our professional lives to appreciate and recognize how different people live their lives uniquely. She states that is we do not consider our power it hinders our work. Being able to think critically with our clients helps provide context to their lives and situations and also opens our own eyes to how our (my) life is made easier in so many ways based on my socioeconomic status, ethnic background, education, religion, etc.

  9. amr5549

    This section has really helped me reflect on and reconceptualize interactions I’ve had with my boss. The part that most resonates is the idea that critical thinking is often immediately interpreted as criticism. Feedback that I give with the intention of leading to change through collaboration is taken as a criticism. This lead my boss to feel the need to defend a given practice, rather than working to explore alternatives. As this is a rather new job for me, and new working relationship, there is a process of coming to a mutual understanding through our communication. All this is to say, it’s difficult to enter a community/ organization/ group where many people have a long tenure and offer a new perspective in a way that’s not too suggestive of creating cultural changes.

  10. nguyenju

    Hello, this is Juanna from Canada. For me, critical thinking means to recognize or to be aware of that one way to see the world is not the only way to see the world. It is not criticism, but rather recognition or awareness, or even self-reflection rather than self-criticism or being hard one oneself. Critical thinking is a demanding process with potential risks and costs. On account of my engagement with these materials, I will start or continue to question therapist objectivity, expertise, and practices of interpretation; and externalize ideas, problems and qualities in therapy conversations. I will also consider how the stories of our lives shape our lives and how therapy might enable the rich description of preferred stories of identity.

  11. Amanda Clifford

    Amanda, Limerick, Ireland
    This lesson really got me thinking.
    To reflect on the justification of our own assumptions, beliefs & values. Sometime our own experiences, our privilege can get in the way when working with different races, genders or classes. Critical Thinking allows us to see other peoples’ perspectives. It allows us to listen to another’s story with our assumptions.

  12. Carson

    Hello from northern Vancouver Island, Canada. For me critical thinking has always meant giving a topic full and thorough consideration. One can and should have beliefs and values that inform them, without being beholden to these to the point they are used to define themselves or, as a therapist, others. Where my understanding of critical thinking has been lacking is the limitations on what topics I have historically given consideration too. Some forms of oppression are obvious and clear, while many others are much more subtle and entrenched in long standing dynamics of power and privilege. These are not often challenged as they are not often recognized as oppressive.

    I think of my own multiple privileges and relative position of power and what that means for me as a practitioner. I’ve never felt that the solution is to deny what I have benefited from, but rather to support others in having the same privileges to the point where power dynamics are minimized if not entirely eliminated.

  13. Natalie Dufva

    It is so cruical to think critically when accessing certain situations or stories told by the individuals we work with. It is important to implement aspects of power and privelege and be self aware about how those two factors contribute to the practice we participate in with individuals. As well as the structural and societal barriers that influence the level of access to resources and opportnities individuals have. Great information , thank you!

  14. nalan@xtra.co.nz

    Hi, Nalan from Coromandel.
    Critical thinking for me is;
    to challenge an idea, belief or situation from as many angles as possibly I could muster.

    After reading materials on critical thinking my mind has expanded. For example the question of who is silent? really opened my mind. Fascinating topic!

    When I face a belief or an idea or situation I would ask few questions to myself and that how I kept myself connected to critical thinking.
    For example:
    Is this true?
    If I put myself in the other persons shoes, how would it feel like?
    What do I see when I look at it from a distance?

  15. Pontso Natoi

    I enjoyed this topic very much. Privilege and dominance topic opened my eyes in a sense that everyone has some kind of privilege and dominance. I work in the community where most people are not exposed to high education as well as the high class life hence they handle themselves in a different manner. However, they have their own strengthens which people from the opposite background still learn a lesson or two from them. as a community worker, i realized that it easy to asses and analyse people with a mentality of trying to help or apply post structuralism methods, while miss the opportunity of learning being human. The lesson i am taking is that, I will approach people with an attitude of letting them own up their stories, their own way and own pace.

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