Engaging theological research with clinical practice

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Tuesday, 2nd January 2018UPCOMING Seminar Thursday 18 January 2018:
Healing and wholeness: practical theology in dialogue with evidence-based healthcare

This seminar will take place on Thursday 18 January 2018, 4.30-6pm in Seminar Room B
(D/TH004, Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham).

Revd Prof. Mark Cobb, Clinical Director & Honorary Senior Chaplain, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust, UK

Contemporary health care is largely a secular matter that retains little of its historic association with religion, and yet a type of spirituality has begun to flourish in this clinical space dissociated from theological tradition or practice. The relationship between spirituality and health has become a growth area in contemporary health studies and one that has all the makings of a field in its own right. Spirituality in this context represents a fourth dimension to the physical, psychological and social aspects of health and contributes to attempts at rebalancing the dominant biomedical model into something more explicitly holistic and humanistic. Concepts of spirituality have thus developed within the academic paradigms of health, and medicine in particular, that typically take reductive, functional and inclusive forms of spirituality that can be subject to scientific methods and applied broadly to the clinical population. In this seminar, in which I draw upon some of my own research in palliative care, I aim to explore three interrelated themes: firstly, what the emerging healthcare discourse of spirituality might reflect about pastoral practice; secondly, the extent to which pastoral ministry might be empirically responsible and capable of entering into dialogue with more evidence based approaches; and thirdly how practical theology might contribute to the contemporary challenges of nurturing healthy persons and communities.


Mark Cobb, BSc, MA, PhD is a Clinical Director and Honorary Senior Chaplain at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK, and he holds honorary academic appointments at the University of Liverpool, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. Mark’s specialist field of practice and research is palliative care, and his previous publications include A Handbook of Chaplaincy Studies (Routledge) and The Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare (Oxford University Press).


Monday, 1st January 2018SEMINAR PROGRAMME
Epiphany Term 2018

SEMINAR PROGRAMME – Epiphany 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 18 January 2018 (4.30-6pm)
Healing and wholeness: practical theology in dialogue with evidence-based healthcare
Seminar Room B (D/TH004)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Revd Prof. Mark Cobb,
Clinical Director & Honorary Senior Chaplain, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust, UK


Thursday 1 February 2018 (4.30-6pm)
Integrating Spiritual and Scientific Perspectives to Psychological Wellbeing
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


Thursday 15 February 2018 (4.30-6pm)
Authentic Interiority and Studying Spirituality
Seminar Room B (D/TH004)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Revd Dr Michael O’Sullivan,
Director of the Spirituality Institute for Research and Education; Programme Leader MA in Applied Spirituality; Research Fellow, University of the Free State, South Africa


Thursday 1 March 2018 (4.30-6pm)
The nature of prayer in the theology of Joseph Ratzinger
Seminar Room B (D/TH004)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Ms Silvija Balenović Visinski,
MA Social Worker; PhD student, Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, Rome


Thursday 15 March 2018 (4.30-6pm)
Title TBA
Seminar Room B (D/TH004)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Dr Colette Hawkins,
Palliative Care Consultant, University Hospital of North Durham



Durham University logo (transparent)


Wednesday, 27th September 2017The Expanded Reason Awards winners have been selected

After receiving 367 works from 170 universities and over 30 countries, the international jury, meeting at the University Francisco de Vitoria, has chosen four winners and two honorable mentions that best answered the challenge of actively promoting a dialogue between sciences and theology/philosophy. The Awards ceremony will take place at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City on September 27th. Honorable mention for Christopher Cook and the MA in Spirituality, Theology & Health of the Department of Theology and Religion.

Christopher Cook

The MA in Spirituality, Theology & Health

Professor Christopher Cook qualified in medicine from St George’s Hospital Medical School, London in 1981. He specialised in psychiatry and worked for over 25 years in the psychiatry of substance misuse. He has research doctorates in medicine and in theology. His academic interests are in spirituality, theology & health. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 2001. He is an Honorary Minor Canon of Durham Cathedral and an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist with Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust. Chris is Professor of Spirituality, Theology & Health in the Department of Theology & Religion at Durham University. He is President of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality. His book publications include: The Philokalia and the Inner Life: On Passions and Prayer (2011), Spirituality, Theology & Mental Health (ed., 2013), and Spirituality and Narrative in Psychiatric Practice (eds Cook, Powell & Sims, 2016).

The MA in Spirituality, Theology & Health at Durham University is an inter-disciplinary and inter-professional programme aimed at enabling students to develop an integrative understanding of human sickness, health and wellbeing from both theological and scientific perspectives. To our knowledge, it is the only programme of its kind internationally on which clergy and health professionals, theologians and scientists can study together at masters level on the same programme in the same classroom. It provides opportunity for inter-disciplinary conversations within which scientists and health professionals can increase their awareness of the theological questions and research pertaining to their work and, similarly, chaplains and theologians can have opportunity to engage with some of the relevant scientific issues.

Read more about the awards here and more about the winners here.

The awards ceremony can be watched here.



Wednesday, 23rd August 2017Applications are being accepted for our
MA Programme in Spirituality, Theology & Health

The MA programme in Spirituality, Theology & Health provides a unique opportunity for inter-disciplinary and inter-professional study in this field. It forms 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. It 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: theo.pgadmissions@durham.ac.uk.


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


To find out more, download the Spirituality, Theology & Health MA Flyer and visit the Department of Theology & Religion website:


Spirituality, Theology & Health


Sunday, 20th August 20175th International Conference of the
British Association for the Study of Spirituality
17-19 May 2018, Coventry University, Coventry, England, UK

5th International Conference of British Association for the Study of Spirituality (BASS)
& 6th European Conference on Religion, Spirituality & Health (ECRSH)

Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Health, Medicine and Social Sciences

Thursday 17 May – Saturday 19 May 2018

Coventry University, Coventry, England, UK

In an exciting new collaboration, the 2018 BASS International Conference will be a joint venture with the European Conference on Religion, Spirituality and Health (ECRSH).

This is in recognition of the academic interests that BASS shares with ECRSH. The conference will be designed in a spirit of international co-operation and collegiality in the field of the study of spirituality, which is an important part of the mission of BASS.

As the venue for the conference will be Coventry, an internationally recognised centre for peace and reconciliation, this conference also offers an important opportunity for both organisations to explore the spirituality of forgiveness and reconciliation in the many contexts in which it is encountered. Thus, the main theme of the conference will be:

Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Health, Medicine and Social Sciences

Keynote speakers from a variety of academic disciplines and professional backgrounds will provide a comprehensive overview of the topic.

You are warmly invited to participate in this biennial gathering of researchers, scholars and practitioners from many nations, and to submit abstracts for oral presentations, symposia or posters on related topics in your own academic or professional context.


* Registration is now open *


  • To register for the 2018 conference, click here.
  • To submit your abstract until 15 Nov 2017, click here.


We very much look forward to meeting you.


Sunday, 20th August 2017PRIME Mental Health Day 2017:
Sadness, Depression and The Dark Night of the Soul Conference

Friday 13 October 2017 (10:00-17:00)

Location: Christian Medical Fellowship (Fellowship, 6 Marshalsea Road, London, SEI IHL, UK)

A day to equip all those striving for better mental health care to work together, within and alongside mental health services.

Key note speaker Dr Gloria Dura-Vila whose recent publication, Sadness, Depression and The Dark Night of the Soul – Transcending the Medicalisation of Sadness, will share with us some of her work interviewing priests, monks, nuns and laity about their experience and reflections on depression and deep sadness and how we acn most helpfully journey with those whilst they suffer.

One aim is to consider, with the benefit of these insights, how this might influence our practice personally and in the organisations we find ourselves in.

This study day wouls be of particular interest to those working the field of mental health, Clergy or anyone whose practise spans this area. All are welcome.

Futher details and registration.


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)


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.