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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

Friday, 13th May 2016Seminar Thursday 19 May 2016:
Resilience, faith and health

This seminar took place on Thursday 19 May 2016, 4.30-6pm in Wallis Room
(St John’s College, 3 South Bailey, Durham).

Revd Dr Alison Gray, FRCPsych; Consultant in Mental Health Liaison Team, 2-gether NHS Foundation Trust; Honorary Research Fellow in the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, Birmingham University; Associate Priest, Great Malvern Priory

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


“Resilience” originates, with “stress”, in the field of materials science. Resilience refers to the ability of a substance to spring back into shape when a load is removed, and by analogy to the ability of a person to tolerate stress. I will consider how resilience relates to stress, grit and burnout. Many individual resilience factors have been identified, including religion and spirituality but these have not been investigated in detail. Organised religion and spiritual practices are cited by many people as sources of strength, enabling them to cope with challenges. I will present my ongoing research project, which looks at the sources of resilience for medical students at Birmingham University. We are using a variety of structured questionnaires and interviews to look more deeply into the relationships between resilience, faith and health. Resilience is a useful concept, but it can be used negatively to blame staff for not coping when the real issues are inappropriate staffing levels or intolerable workplace conditions.


Dr Alison Gray is a consultant psychiatrist, leading the Mental Health Liaison team in the Hereford County Hospital. She has a long interest in religion, spirituality and health and is an ordained Anglican church minister. Having started out as a natural scientist at Cambridge University, Alison transferred into medicine and then trained in psychiatry in the West Midlands. She worked for several years in the National Deaf Mental Health Service in Birmingham, leaving there in 2006 to train for ordination at Queens Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education. After being ordained in the Church of England she returned to psychiatry in 2010. Having worked with the RAID team in Birmingham she set up and continues to run the Mental Health Liaison team in Hereford, and works academically at the Cadbury centre, Birmingham University.


Friday, 6th May 2016Seminar Thursday 12 May 2016:
Mindfulness, Christianity and Pastoral Care

This seminar took place on Thursday 12 May 2016, 4.30-6pm in Wallis Room
(St John’s College, 3 South Bailey, Durham).

Prof. Peter Tyler, Professor of Pastoral Theology & Spirituality, St Mary’s University, Twickenham; Founding Director of the Centre for Initiatives in Spirituality & Reconciliation (InSpiRe)

To download the Powerpoint Presentation, click here.

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


Many commentators, not least Christian commentators, have been taken aback by the seemingly unstoppable rise of the ‘mindfulness revolution’ that has swept the country over the past decade. My aim in this paper is to reflect on the nature of mindfulness, especially as perceived from its Buddhist roots, (as currently operative in the present British, Irish and American scene) and how this may (or may not) relate to the wider tradition of Christian prayer. I shall argue that far from a foreign import mindfulness is not only endemic but essential to the Christian understanding of how the human person relates to the divine.

However I would like to add some caveats to the basic position of the paper. As recent scholars have shown, such as Prof Gavin D’Costa in Bristol and Fr Martin Ganeri OP in Oxford, there are conceptual and ideological difficulties in squaring Buddhist approaches to fit the Christian circle and I think it would be intellectually naive to ignore these – something I do not intend to do in this address.

To begin with, then, I shall turn to the practice of mindfulness in its Buddhist origins before reflecting on its current use in healthcare and psychiatry. I shall then turn to the Christian tradition of prayer before concluding with some possible future models for Christian mindfulness today.


Professor Peter Tyler is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Spirituality at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. He is also the Founding Director of the Centre for Initiatives in Spirituality and Reconciliation (InSpiRe) details of which can be found on www.stmarys.ac.uk/inspire. His own work has been on the borderlands of psychology, theology and philosophy and his most recent book The Pursuit of the Soul: Psychoanalysis, Soul-Making and the Christian Tradition (T & T Clark, 2016) explores this interface through the prism of soul-language. He is a registered psychotherapist and his work can be followed on http://insoulpursuit.blogspot.co.uk.


Wednesday, 27th April 2016Seminar Thursday 5 May 2016:
Medieval Muslim ‘Cognitive Behaviour Therapists’ al-Kindi and al-Balkhi

This seminar took place on Thursday 5 May 2016, 4.30-6pm in Wallis Room
(St John’s College, 3 South Bailey, Durham).

Mrs Mahshid Turner, PhD candidate, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University; First female Muslim chaplain at UK university

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


Born at the beginning of the ninth century in Basra, Abῡ Yῡsuf Ya’qῡb b. Isḥāq al-Kindī (800-870 A.D.) – was a scion of the respected Arab tribe of Kinda, a direct descendant of Ash’ath b. Qays, a companion of the Prophet. On account of his contribution to the scientific, philosophical and literary disciplines he was given the honorary title of ‘philosopher of the Arabs’. A list of his works in the bibliographical compendium of Ibn Nadim (d. 995) stretches to 239 treatises on subjects as diverse as metaphysics, ethics, astronomy, mathematics and ‘the study of the soul’. Unfortunately most of these are no longer in existence; what remains of his work has been collected into a single volume. In 1932, some of his original Arabic epistles were discovered in Ayasofia library in Istanbul, including his treatise entitled ‘On the Device for Dispelling Sorrows’. It is a study of this treatise which will inform part of this presentation.

Abῡ Zayd Ahmad ibn Sahl al-Balkī (850-934 A.D.) was born around fifty years after al-Kindī in the Persian province of Balkh. Like al-Kindī, Balkhi was recognised as an expert in a whole range of disciplines, including medicine and philosophy. One of the few works of his which survives is his manuscript Maṣālīḥ al-Abdān wa al-Anfus (‘Sustenance for Bodies and Souls’) also located in Ayasofya library in Istanbul. The first part of this book is devoted to the physical aspects of health for sustenance of the body and the second part to the sustenance of the soul. It is the second part of his treatise that I will be discussing here, in particular the seventh section, where al-Balkhī talks about how one should deal with sadness and depression.

Although the discourse on the mind and how we think, and on the impact the mind has on the physical and mental state of individuals, can be traced back to the philosophy of the Stoics, early Muslim thinkers such as al-Kindī and al-Balkhī developed these ideas further by showing how both the mind and the body can be trained to recognise faulty and delusionary thinking and how to replace it with healthy thoughts. According to Malik Badri,[1] the translator of Sustenance of the Soul, Balkhī’s psychotherapy “could be termed today as “rational cognitive therapy”’.[2]

Both al-Kindi and al-Balkhi made a clear distinction between sorrow that was due to environmental factors and sorrow that has no apparent reason. Their differentiation between these two categories bears a remarkable resemblance to modern definitions of reactive depression and endogenous depression. These medieval Muslim thinkers attributed the former to the loss of loved ones or valued possessions and believed that the actual events in people’s lives were not the real cause of reactive depression, but rather that the problem was down to how they interpreted their particular experiences. The strategies and methods which these two thinkers devised for obviation of reactive depression will be discussed in detail in this presentation.

[1] Malik Badri, Abῡ Zayd al-Balkhī’s Sustenance of the Soul: The Cognitive Behavior Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician (London and Washington: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2013), 18.

[2] Ibid.


My name is Mahshid Turner and I am about to finish my PhD which is on the subject of ‘Sorrow (‘ḥuzn’) in the Muslim Tradition: with Special Reference to Said Nursi’. I am also a non-contractual Muslim Chaplain for Durham University – recognised as the first female Muslim chaplain in higher education to be appointed in United Kingdom. My publications include ‘Can the Effects of Religion and Spirituality on Both Physical and Mental Health be Scientifically Measured? An Overview of the Key Sources, with Particular Reference to the Teachings of Said Nursi’, published in the Journal of Religion and Health, as well as conference talks and book reviews.


Wednesday, 27th April 2016SEMINAR PROGRAMME
Easter Term 2016

SEMINAR PROGRAMME – Easter Term 2016

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 5 May 2016 (4.30-6pm)
Medieval Muslim ‘Cognitive Behaviour Therapists’ al-Kindi and al-Balkhi
Wallis RoomSt John’s College, 3 South Bailey, Durham
by Mrs Mahshid Turner,
PhD candidate, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University;
First female Muslim chaplain at UK university


Thursday 12 May 2016 (4.30-6pm)
Mindfulness, Christianity and Pastoral Care
Wallis RoomSt John’s College, 3 South Bailey, Durham
by Prof. Peter Tyler,
Professor of Pastoral Theology and Spirituality, St Mary’s University, Twickenham;
Founding Director of the Centre for Initiatives in Spirituality and Reconciliation (InSpiRe)


Thursday 19 May 2016 (4.30-6pm)
Resilience, faith and health
Wallis RoomSt John’s College, 3 South Bailey, Durham
by Revd Dr Alison Gray,
FRCPsych; Consultant in Mental Health Liaison Team, 2-gether NHS Foundation Trust;
Honorary Research Fellow in the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, Birmingham University; Associate Priest, Great Malvern Priory



Durham University logo (transparent)


Saturday, 23rd April 2016Attentiveness of the Heart: Mental Well-Being, Spirituality and Young People

Saturday 12 November 2016 (10am – 4pm) @ St Mary’s University (Twickenham, UK)

Cost: £35 (incl. buffet lunch) – Concessions available

For the conference poster, click here.


In collaboration with the Catholic Bishops’ of England and Wales Mental Health Project and the Catholic Children’s Society

The day is a forum for young people seeking to integrate mental health and spiritual issues and those who care for them: chaplains, ministers, counsellors and mental health professionals. There will be opportunities to explore methods of practice and talk about the integration of spirituality and mental health with practitioners in the field.



  • Baroness Sheila Hollins
  • Caroline Bennett
  • Dr Humphrey James
  • Dr Rosemary Keenan
  • Junior Lynch
  • Dr Trevor Stammers
  • Dr Fiona Wilson


The day will run from 10am to 4pm and will include talks, workshops and plenary forum.





9.30am: Registration
10am: Introduction and First Speaker: Baroness Sheila Hollins
10.40am: Response: Junior Lynch
11am: Coffee
11.30am: Group Listening: Dr Rosemary Keenan and Caroline Bennett
12.30pm: Responses
1pm: Lunch
2pm: Afternoon session: workshops/smaller groups: Caroline Stanton, Junior Lynch, Dr Mo Glackin, Dr Trevor Stammers
3.10pm: Final Speakers: Fiona Wilson and Dr Humphrey James
3.50pm: Round up and Finish: Junior Lynch

For more details please contact Barbara Gwyer at inspire@stmarys.ac.uk or see www.stmarys.ac.uk/inspire/

St Marys University (logo)

Saturday, 23rd April 2016The Soul Seminar

Tuesday 6th September 2016 (11am – 4pm) @ St Mary’s University (G5, Twickenham, UK)

Cost: £30 (incl. buffet lunch)

For the seminar poster, click here.


Many commentators have noticed the recent ‘return of the soul’ in religious, psychological and social-scientific discourse. In our day together some of these commentators will explore this phenomenon with reference to psychology, spirituality and art.





  • Prof David Tacey
  • Prof Peter Tyler
  • Tim Wainwright
  • Dr Andrew Walker


The day will include a specially commissioned video piece, ‘About Soul’, by Tim Wainwright, and be followed with the launch of ‘The Pursuit of the Soul: Psychoanalysis, Soul-making and the Christian Tradition’ (T & T Clark, 2016) by Prof Peter Tyler.

For more details please contact inspire@stmarys.ac.uk. Find out more about InSpiRe on the St Mary’s website.


St Marys University (logo)


Friday, 22nd April 2016‘Hallucinations and Spiritual Experience:
Voices, Visions and Revelation’ conference

Friday 25 November 2016 (10:00 – 16:30) @ RCPsych (London, UK)
Royal College of Psychiatrists

£100 standard rate | £50 reduced rate (trainees, retired members, subsidised)



5 CPD hours, subject to peer group review



This meeting is open to all members of the College and non-members (both of which can book online). It will be especially relevant to psychiatrists, students, trainees, chaplains, spiritual directors, academics and researchers interested in spiritual and religious experiences.



Booking will open shortly.

Please read the cancellation policy before making your booking.

Non-members can also book online – after clicking the ‘book online now’ button there is an option to create a new account if you’ve not done so before.



Unusual perceptual phenomena, including visual and auditory hallucinations, have been associated with spiritual and religious experiences since ancient times. Since hallucinations associated with major psychiatric disorders not infrequently include spiritual and/or religious content, this has led psychiatrists to take a reductionist approach that treats all such anomalous experiences as pathology and likely to be indicative of mental illness. However, research shows that many people who experience anomalous perception should not be diagnosed as mentally ill and are not in need of mental health services. For some, such experiences serve to enrich and enhance their sense of life purpose.

This day conference will bring together recent scientific research on hallucinations with spiritual and religious perspectives. Mental health professionals need to be aware of alternative frameworks for making sense of anomalous perceptual experiences, with important implications for both clinical practice and the spiritual life.




Emma Jacobson, telephone: 020 3701 2524.



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)