Engaging theological research with clinical practice

Information forFaith CommunitiesandHealthcare Professionals

Project News

Friday, 28th April 2017Seminar Thursday 11 May 2017:
Hope and Optimism: Theology, Psychology and Mental Health

This seminar took place on Thursday 11 May 2017, 4.30-6pm in Seminar Room B
(D/TH004, Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham).

Dr Fraser Watts, Visiting Professor of Psychology and Religion, University of Lincoln

To watch the Lecture, please click on the video below:


Hope has been an important theme in both theology and psychology in recent decades, but there has been very little engagement between them concerning hope. Theology has often made a distinction between hope and optimism, and more recently that distinction has been made in psychology too. Optimism emphasises expectations about the future, and is most commonly found when circumstances are favourable. Hope, in contrast, can exist in unfavourable conditions in which there are no grounds for optimism, and is more a matter of attitude than expectation.

Psychological research on hope has been dominated by Snyder’s conceptualisation of it as reflecting the belief that one can find pathways to desired goals, and be capable of following those pathways. From a theological perspective that seems based on too simplistic a view of what goals are desirable, and places too much emphasis on self-efficacy in bringing those goals about. Theology would tend to assume that worthwhile goals are achieved more collaboratively, and as a result of openness to transcendent resources.

Research on depression has identified hopelessness as one of its key characteristics. It seems to be both a symptom of depression and something that maintains depression. Though this research has generally not been specific about what kind of hope is lacking in depression, measures of hopelessness often seem to be focusing on a lack of optimism, though it is arguable that a lack of hope would be of greater causal significance in maintaining depression. It is also not clear that, in order not to be depressed, people need a sense of self-efficacy rather than a sense that goals can be achieved more collaboratively.


Fraser Watts is Visiting Professor Psychology and Religion at the University of Lincoln. He is also Director of the Cambridge Institute for Applied Psychology and Religion, and Executive Secretary of the International Society for Science and Religion. He was formerly Reader in Theology and Science in the University of Cambridge, where he was Director of the Psychology and Religion Research Group and a Fellow of Queens’ College. He is a former President of the British Psychological Society and of the International Society for Science and Religion. His books include Theology and Psychology (Ashgate, 2002); Psychology for Christian Ministry (with Rebecca Nye and Sara Savage, Routledge, 2002); Forgiveness in Context (edited with Liz Gulliford, T & T Clark, 2004); Jesus and Psychology (DLT, 2007); Spiritual Healing: Scientific and Religious Perspectives (CUP, 2011); Head and Heart: Perspectives from Religion and Psychology (edited with G Dumbreck, Templeton Press, 2013) Evolution, Religion and Cognitive Science: Critical and Constructive Essays (edited with L Turner, OUP, 2014). He has an overview of the psychology of religion, Psychology, Religion and Spirituality, in press with CUP. He is currently working on a book on religion and the body.


Monday, 17th April 2017Seminar Thursday 27 April 2017:
Child Abuse and its Impact on Children’s Spirituality

This seminar took place on Thursday 27 April 2017, 4.30-6pm in Seminar Room B
(D/TH004, Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham).

Mr Nikolaos Souvlakis, Theology and Counselling Programme Director and Lecturer. London School of Theology, Middlesex University

It is commonly accepted that abuse violates many aspects of the child’s understanding of his or her world, self and spirituality. Children’s development through their journey to experience the world makes them dependent and easily led. Parents on the other hand, pay great attention on their children’s physical development such as focusing in on their children’s nutrition and surrounding environment which will shape their bodies and character accordingly, as they grow up. Less attention has been given to children’s spiritual experience, which plays a fundamental role in shaping not only their attitude to nutrition later on in life but also on their attitude towards life and toward their ‘Self’.

This paper aims to discuss aspects of spirituality in childhood, the meaning of spiritual trauma in childhood and the impact of spiritual trauma on children’s mental health in later stages of life. One of the central points of discussion is the hypothesis that abuse in childhood creates a reverse spiritual experience, which is an amalgamation of overwhelming arousal and cognitive schemata, which creates a sense of denigration and nothingness about the Self in relation to the world. This paper investigates aspects of child abuse and its impact, among Christian families in Greece, over the last ten years. The research project was funded by the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church. Finally, the researchers’ adopted an anthropological study following the AAA and BACP ethical frameworks.


Nikolaos has graduated as a psychotherapist, psychologist, Sports Scientist and Theologian. He has extensive experience working in psychotherapeutic settings providing individual, couples, group therapy and clinical supervision. His first Master’s degree is in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Investigation, linked with psychoanalysis and spirituality while his second Master’s is in Psychology of Religion. Nikolaos specialized in spirituality. He has worked in a variety of settings such as the NHS, the Ministry of Justice, and other religious organizations in UK, Europe and USA. Nikolaos has a keen interest in exploring spirituality and individuals’ well-being and healing processes which is the main focus of his PhD. His research interests are in the healing powers of religious beliefs, mental health and spiritual possession with a particular interest on evil eye. Further to such interests, most of his clinical and academic life has been focused on early on spiritual trauma and personality disorders but more specifically on psychopaths. He has developed a specific interest as psychotherapist on spiritual trauma and the forensics and the integration of religion and spirituality and psychotherapy.


Monday, 17th April 2017SEMINAR PROGRAMME
Easter Term 2017

SEMINAR PROGRAMME – Easter Term 2017

These seminars are open to all staff and students of Durham University and to the general public. However, please be aware that they are aimed at a postgraduate level and are therefore especially suitable for MA, PhD and DThM students, as well as for others engaged in postgraduate study in relevant areas of enquiry.


If you would like to attend any of these seminars, please send an e-mail to Charidimos Koutris (charidimos.koutris@durham.ac.uk) in order to ensure that a place will be available for you.


Also feel free to visit the Durham University website to Subscribe to these seminars, download future seminars as an iCal calendar file or download the seminar programme in pdf format.


Thursday 27 April 2017 (4.30-6pm)
Child Abuse and its Impact on Children’s Spirituality
Seminar Room B (D/TH004)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Mr Nikolaos Souvlakis,
Theology and Counselling Programme Director and Lecturer. London School of Theology, Middlesex University


Thursday 11 May 2017 (4.30-6pm)
Hope and Optimism: Theology, Psychology and Mental Health
Seminar Room B (D/TH004)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Dr Fraser Watts,
Visiting Professor of Psychology and Religion, University of Lincoln



Durham University logo (transparent)


Thursday, 5th January 2017Spirituality & Recovery Conference 2017

Wednesday 12 July 2017 – Friday 14 July 2017 @ St John’s College, Durham UK

Durham University & TEWV NHS Foundation Trust


As more and more mental health service providers embrace a recovery approach to care, this conference will give opportunity to explore the role which spirituality has to play in such an approach. Can there be a recovery approach without taking spirituality into account? Does a recovery model open up new opportunities to ensure that attention to spiritual needs is routinely a part of assessment and care planning? Are ‘recovery’ and ‘spirituality’ simply two different words for the same thing when it comes to mental health care, or do they have their own distinct, but mutually enriching, meanings? This conference is an opportunity for clinicians, service users and carers, chaplains, faith and community leaders and anyone else interested to come and think about how those interested in recovery and those who wish to promote the importance of spirituality can work together for the benefit of people who are receiving mental health services. The second day will focus particularly on the importance of narrative and we will hear a number of stories from TEWV service users. The final day will have a particular emphasis on compassion and kindness. This is the third Durham conference exploring good practice in spirituality and mental health care, and will take place at St John’s College.


Biographies and the conference agenda can be found here.

To view and download the conference poster, click here.


If you have any proposals for delegate workshops and presentations, please complete this form and return to Colin Jay (colin.jay@nhs.net) no later than 1st April 2017.


To book a place in the conference, click HERE.


You have the option to book accommodation as part of your registration.


Registration to the conference closes at midnight on Friday 30 June 2017.



  • Standard Package (£140): Includes attendance on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, including refreshments and lunch.
  • Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Staff (£125): Includes attendance on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, including refreshments and lunch.
  • Day Attendance – Thursday (£80): Includes refreshments and lunch



  • Credit/Debit Card
  • Purchase Order




Sunday, 15th May 2016Spirituality, Theology and Mental Health
edited by Christopher Cook

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Editor: Christopher Cook

ISBN-13: 9780334046264

ISBN-10: 0334046262

Publisher: SCM Press

Format: Paperback

RRP: WAS £45.00 / NOW ONLY £36.00 (order now by clicking here)

Publish date: 31/05/2013

Flyer: You can view the book’s flyer by clicking here


A few words about the book:

In 2010 a Durham conference on Spirituality, Theology & Mental Health was made possible by support from the Guild of Health. The conference was attended by more than one hundred delegates, from a variety of different professional and academic backgrounds including those working in university departments of theology, anthropology and philosophy, as well as chaplains, clergy and healthcare professionals. The present publication comprises a series of chapters by authors, all of whom presented papers at the conference. It is thus informed by the debate that took place at the conference, but it is more than simply a set of conference proceedings. The aim has been to create a book with multi-disciplinary and multi-professional contributions which show the relevance of theology to healthcare today, and which will provide a resource for postgraduate teaching, research and professional practice.


This book provides reflections from leading international scholars and practitioners in theology, anthropology, philosophy and psychiatry as to the nature of spirituality and its relevance to constructions of mental disorder and mental healthcare. Key issues are explored in depth, including the nature of spirituality and recent debates concerning its importance in contemporary psychiatric practice, relationship between demons and wellbeing in ancient religious texts and contemporary practice, religious conversion, and the nature and importance of myth and theology in shaping human self understanding. These are used as a basis for exploring some of the overarching intellectual and practical issues that arise when different disciplines engage together with an attempt to better understand the relationship between spirituality and mental health and translate their findings into mental healthcare practice.


Are you still unsure why buy this book?

Here are two Commendations by Professors Harold G. Koenig and Sheila the Baroness Hollins


Professors Harold G. Koenig:

Scientists and clinicians will find in this book contributions from theology, philosophy and pastoral practice that will give them new insights into the importance of spirituality in mental healthcare. Theological and inter-disciplinary perspectives offered here help all of us to see things differently. This book is commended to all mental health professionals, chaplains and pastoral carers, and academics wanting a broader perspective on spirituality and mental health.


Professor Sheila the Baroness Hollins:

Theology and Mental health will be essential reading for clergy, health professionals and academics from different disciplines who are learning, talking and working together in the hope of better addressing the place of spirituality in mental health care. It’s a fascinating book that’s integrative of spiritual and theological perspectives with clinical and pastoral care, importantly introducing theology into a debate that has largely ignored a contribution from this discipline. Many of the writers explore the boundaries that sometimes separate different domains of expertise and differing values and assumptions in diverse settings.


Order the book here:



Spirituality, Theology and Mental Health by C.Cook

Thursday, 21st April 2016Our MA/MSc programme in Spirituality, Theology & Health as a possible intercalated degree for undergraduate medical students

We would like to draw to your attention our MA/MSc programme in Spirituality, Theology & Health as a possible intercalated degree for undergraduate medical students. This programme is unique in its provision of inter-disciplinary engagement between theology and health sciences and related inter-professional contact. The programme has been running for 4 years now for graduate students and we accepted our first intercalated student last year. She recently graduated with a distinction.


If you are interested, please click HERE for further information on the programme and the application process.


We would be grateful if you could circulate details of this programme to anyone who may be interested. If they would like to consider this programme further, they should get in touch with Professor Chris Cook (c.c.h.cook@durham.ac.uk), as programme director, or Susan Tait, our postgraduate admissions secretary (theo.pgadmissions@durham.ac.uk), who will be able to provide further information.

We look forward to seeing you soon!


Thursday, 21st April 2016Spirituality and Narrative in Psychiatric Practice
by C.Cook, A.Powell & A.Sims

For mental health service users, spirituality and faith are closely connected with questions of relationship, transcendence, and finding meaning and purpose in life – questions best approached by way of narrative (or story).

In clinical practice, narrative can provide a means of exploring the ethical and professional dilemmas that are encountered when spiritual and/or religious concerns are in evidence. Narrative has been recognised as important in both medicine and theology, and now it can be employed as a framework for addressing spirituality and religion in clinical psychiatric practice, encompassing addictions, liaison and forensic psychiatry, and spanning all ages and cultures.

  • Breaks new ground in using a narrative to explore the importance and challenge of spirituality in clinical psychiatric practice.
  • Includes narrative excerpts and case illustrations to show how spiritual concerns can be included in a range of psychiatric treatment options.
  • Provides a tool for exploring the ethical and professional dilemmas spirituality still raises in mental healthcare.
  • Presents contributions from patients, chaplains, and leading psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.


Click on the links below to:



All psychiatrists and mental health professionals. Plus of interest to anyone interested in the effect of religion/spirituality upon mental health, e.g. hospital chaplains.



Prof. Christopher C.H. Cook – Professor of Spirituality, Theology & Health, Durham University; Honorary Minor Canon at Durham Cathedral; and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Andrew Powell – Formerly: Consultant Psychotherapist and Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, St. George’s Hospital and University of London and Consultant Psychotherapist and Honorary Senior Lecturer, the Warneford Hospital and University of Oxford.

Prof. Andrew Sims – Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Leeds and former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (1990-93).





  1. Narrative in psychiatry, theology and spirituality
  2. Spirituality and transcultural narratives
  3. Psychopathology and the clinical story
  4. Helping patients tell their story: narratives of body, mind and soul
  5. Gods lost and found: spiritual coping in clinical practice
  6. Stories of joy and sorrow: spirituality and affective disorder
  7. Stories of fear: spirituality and anxiety disorders
  8. Stories of transgression: narrative therapy with offenders
  9. Narratives of transformation in psychosis
  10. My story: a spiritual narrative
  11. God’s story revealed in the human story
  12. Meaning without ‘believing’: attachment theory, mentalisation and the spiritual dimension of analytical psychotherapy
  13. Stories of living with loss: spirituality and ageing
  14. Beginnings and endings


Spirituality & Narrative in Psychiatric Practice (Cover)


Saturday, 23rd March 2013Applications are now being accepted for our
MA Programme in Spirituality, Theology & Health
for the academic year 2016-2017

Entry to our MA programme 2016-2017 in Spirituality, Theology & Health is still possible for the academic year 2016-2017. This programme provides a unique opportunity for inter-disciplinary and inter-professional study in this field. They form a good basis both for theological reflection on professional practice and also an introduction to research methods for those who are thinking of working towards a PhD or DThM. They can be pursued part-time or full-time.


To quote one of our students:

Every trip to St John’s College, Durham is eagerly undertaken; not just because Durham is such a fantastic city with a fascinating history and heritage, but because the teaching on the course is to such a high standard, with immensely knowledgeable lecturers who are obviously keen to impart that knowledge and to engage in meaningful debates with the students.


Applications and enquiries from prospective students are always welcomed. For further information, please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Secretary in the Department of Theology and Religion, Mrs Susan Tait (e-mail: susan.tait@durham.ac.uk).


Alternatively, you can contact one of the members of Academic Staff to discuss potential thesis topics.


To find out more please click on the Courses tab above, download the Spirituality, Theology & Health MA Flyer, and visit the Department of Theology & Religion website:


Spirituality, Theology & Health


Monday, 15th June 2009Spirituality & Psychiatry

Eds. Chris Cook, Andrew Powell, Andrew Sims, Royal College of Psychiatrists Press, London, 2009

Spirituality and PsychiatrySpirituality & Psychiatry is a new book published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Emerging from the work of the Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, it considers the relevance of spirituality to clinical practice in psychiatry. It is edited by Chris Cook (current Chair of the Special Interest Group and Director of the Project for Spirituality, Theology & Health at Durham University) along with two past Chairs of the Special Interest Group (Dr Andrew Powell and Professor Andrew Sims). Further information, and the opportunity to purchase the book, is available from the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ website.