Using ‘thinking hats’ and dialectics

Thinking differently unlocks new ways of working: Using ‘thinking hats’ and dialectics

One-Eighty interventions require young people and families to try new approaches and look at alternative ways of viewing things. It seems only fair then that One-Eighty staff have been developing new ways of thinking too and now know just how it feels to face the challenge of changing thinking habits!


Edward De Bono developed an approach to team problem solving- the 6 Thinking hats.

The approach invites you to recognise your most preferred, regularly worn approach to problem solving and consider how the varied hats can be represented to develop critical thinking.





At One-eighty, each team member wore a hat (literally) and embodied that thinking style to consider an intervention for a young person. The outcome was interesting….


“We reached a different conclusion to previous discussions, it generated new ideas”.

                          “It felt different trying another way of thinking, but helpful”

     “I understand my team members thinking styles now and can encourage their input more”


Research around De Bono’s thinking hats within a range of settings suggests that using them:

  • Re-frames problems to explore the issue from different angles
  • Reduces the role of emotions or personality preferences in making decisions
  • Encourages critical, deeper discussion
  • Generates creativity and innovative ideas
  • Reduces conflicts
  • Increases self-awareness

(For studies see: Karadag et al 2009, Kivunge 2015, De Bono 1992)


One-Eighty have been building Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills in to practice with young people and families and in doing so have also been challenged to practice dialectical thinking.

Within DBT dialectics means “two opposite ideas can be true at the same time, and when considered together can create a new truth and a new way of viewing the situation”.

It is not therefore about who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ but rather the truth in both perspectives, allowing space to recognise each unique interpretation.


Taking a dialectical approach means:

  • Looking at individual actions on their own merit and individual function not joined together to make labels.
  • Looking at all sides of a situation and point of view.
  • Truth as transactional and changing.
  • Change as a constant
  • One thing may be true in one situation, but not in another.

(Linehan Institute, Rathus & Miller)


Within DBT, dialectics is taught to familes to help them ‘think and act dialectically’ with a view to unsticking conflicts, increasing empathy and understanding of the others point of view.

(Rathus and Miller, 2014) 

One-Eighty has been using dialectics with families and seen just this happen. There are amazing examples of parents and young people working together rather than arguing and starting to build hope for happier family life in future. However, to focus on teaching dialectics, is to miss the challenge for us. There is also learning for us as professionals. We can easily start to label behaviours and get stuck in our own interpretations of events. Instead we need to consider alternative interpretations and the unique voice of those we are working with. Then we can consider this to find a new way forward.

If you want to unstick conflicts and try seeing things from a new perspective, why don’t you give dialectical thinking a go? Think you and your team are stuck in one way of thinking…. Need new solutions? Could be time to practice using some new hats!


If you want to explore new ways of thinking further and develop your practice….

Supervision and a wide variety of training is available through One-eighty’s Training and Resource Service.


Ellie Overton, Mental & Emotional Health Lead Practitioner



De Bono, E. (1985). Six Thinking Hats. London: Penguin Books.

De Bono, E (1992) Six Thinking Hats for Schools.

Dimeff, L., & Koerner, K. (2007). DBT in clinical practice: Applications across disorders and settings. New York: Guilford Press.

Karadag, M, Saritas, S, Erginer, E. (2009) Using the ‘six thinking hats’ model of learning in a surgical nursing class: sharing the experience and student opinions. AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF ADVANCED NURSING Volume 26 Number 3.

Kivunge, C. (2015) Using De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats Model to Teach Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills Essential for Success in the 21st Century Economy. Creative Education, 2015, 6, 380-391

Published Online March 2015 in SciRes.

Linehan, M.M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Linehan Institute: Behavioural Tech.

Rathus, J. H and Miller, A. (2014) DBT skills manual for adolescents.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *