Skip to content

About Dr Wendy Dossett

My research and knowledge transfer work centres on the public relevance of the study of religions, spirituality and the secular. I research a variety of responses to anxiety and dislocation associated with modernity, especially in relation to the phenomenon of recovery from addiction. I am also interested in the interface between religion, society and education.

I am Director (Research) of Chester Studies of Addiction, Recovery and Spirituality Group, and Principal Investigator of the Higher Power Project, which explores the language of religion and spirituality in recovery from substance use disorders and other addictions. The outcomes of this research are used in CSARS Group training projects for people seeking recovery and for substance misuse treatment professionals.

Having studied for a joint degree in English Literature and Religious Studies, I explored an interest in Buddhism at PhD level, whilst living at a Pure Land Buddhist Temple in Tokyo. My PhD analysed the ways religions in general, and Buddhism in particular, tend to be categorised by scholarship according to an ‘essence and manifestation' model, which produces distorted presentations. On my return from Japan I trained as a secondary school Religious Education teacher, and spent the following six years involved in the training of secondary RE teachers and running a Religious Education Resources Centre. As a teacher by vocation, I've been particularly interested in the interface between secondary and higher education in the field of RE/RS. Some of my published work and the training I provide for teachers seeks to engage teachers and their students with the methods and insights of academic Religious Studies.   I am also interested in wider theoretical questions about the relationship between religious education, religions, worldviews, non-religion and society.

I have two decades of experience as an A level principal examiner (Asian Religions and Religion in Contemporary Society) for one of the four Public Examination Boards, writing A level syllabuses, setting papers, leading marking teams, and providing CPD for teachers. I was for a decade the Secretary of the Shap Working Party for Religions in Education, a lobby group of RE/RS professionals from all sectors and faith communities, founded in 1969 by Ninian Smart and others, to ensure that education in religions considered religions in general, and not only the religion of the British establishment. I now represent TRS-UK (the body representing all UK HEI departments of TRS) on the RE Council of England and Wales.

In my previous post at the University of Wales, Lampeter, I was a director of the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre, which houses the well-known archive of more than 6,000 accounts from the general public of religious and spiritual experiences. I've supervised the research work of numerous students and scholars in the archive, and I'm interested in the ways in which such experiences are reported by people who do not identify with formal religious traditions.

I have a particular interest in the range and variety of Buddhist approaches to addiction recovery. I have trained as a mindfulness teacher through Bangor University, and the use of mindfulness in treating substance use disorders is a particular focus, but I am interested in wider theoretical questions around the relationship between mindfulness and Buddhism; the disconnect between traditional Buddhist soteriologies and the aims of mindfulness; and the presentation of mindfulness as secular.

In 2010-11 I spent a year working with people seeking recovery in a residential drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation centre. This provided first-hand experience upon which to build my research in spirituality and addiction recovery.

Teaching

As a generalist I've taught a wide range of subjects within religious studies, including Sikhism, Psychology of Religion and Religious Experience.  In Chester I’m teaching Buddhism, the Study of Religion, and a module for undergraduates in Religious Education. I’m also programme leader of our Masters in Religious Studies, which equips students to undertake more advanced research into contemporary religion, culture and spirituality.

Undergraduate

  • Introduction to the Study of Religions
  • Encountering Religions – Buddhism
  • Asian philosophies – Knowledge, Liberation and the Self
  • Religious Education – Placement module
  • Violence and Nationalism : Religious and Philosophical Perspectives

Postgraduate

  • Advanced Research Methods in the Study of Religions
  • Buddhist Concepts of Awakening

 

Research

MPhil and PhD Supervision:

I'm interested in supervising MPhil and PhD students in these areas -

  • Spirituality and Addiction Recovery,
  • Religious Education,
  • Mindfulness,
  • Japanese Pure Land Buddhism,
  • and some aspects of Religious Experience.  

Projects:

The Higher Power Project – a qualitative study of the concepts of Higher Power used by people in recovery from addiction through Twelve Step Programmes.

I was a member of team based at the University of Warwick, directed by Professor Robert Jackson, commissioned by the DCSF, to introduce a number of measures designed to support and improve teaching and learning in Religious Education in Schools in England. Published in Jan 2010.

I was a member of the team for the construction of a significant online resource for continuing professional development (CPD) in religious education commissioned by Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and jointly led by four organisations: The Association of RE Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants (AREIAC) The Association of University Lecturers in Religious Education (AULRE) The Shap Working Party on World Religions in Education and The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE). Publication in Spring 2010 on the REC website.

Grants received:

Source 

Funding (£K)

Date

Project Details

Centre for Research into Environment & Health (CREH)

2.0

2011

Start-up funding to explore health & environmental aspects of recovery from addiction.

University of Chester (UoC)

3.0

2012

Research Capacity Building Grant – Higher Power Project

Alcohol Research UK (ARUK)

0.6

2012

Support for University of Chester conference “Addiction: A Spiritual Illness with a Spiritual Solution?”

Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA)

1.0

2013

Support for University of Chester conference “Faith-based Solutions to Addiction/Practitioners’ Seminar: Spirituality and Twelve Step Recovery

Sir Halley Stewart Trust (SHST)

25.8

2013/14

Higher Power Project – A study of the spirituality of people in 12-Step recovery

University of Chester

12.0

14.8

2012/13

2013/14

HPP Knowledge Transfer projects, establishment of CSARS Group

Welsh Government

15.0

2013/14

Wrexham Recovery from Addiction Pilot Project (WRAPP)

Shropshire Council

25.3

2014/15

Oswestry and Shrewsbury Recovery Projects

Welsh Government

26.7

2014/15

North Wales Recovery Project – Colwyn Bay and Wrexham Recovery projects

Welsh Government

25.0

2015/16

North Wales Recovery Project – Bangor, Flint and Rhyl Recovery projects

North Wales Recovery Community

5.0

2016/17

Penrhyn Recovery Project - Bangor

Welsh Government

5.0

2018/19

Penrhyn Recovery Project - Bangor

North Wales Recovery Community

1.0

2018/19

Penrhyn Recovery Project - Bangor

Total

£162.2K

 

 

 

Published Work

Text Books

2009    

Religion in Contemporary Society (AS)  (Text book and teachers handbook) Cardiff, UWIC Press, (jointly authored with Karl Lawson, Andrew Pearce and Roger Owen)

2006     

Religious Experience (A level Text Book and teachers’ handbook) Cardiff, UWIC Press

2003

Buddhism For AS Students  (Text Book and teachers handbook for the New Advanced Subsidiary (AS) in Buddhism) UWIC Press

2003         

Judaism For AS Students jointly authored with Lavinia Cohn Sherbok (Text Book and teachers’ handbook for the New Advanced Subsidiary (AS) in Buddhism) UWIC Press

 

Edited Volume

2015

Bacon, H., Dossett, W., & Knowles, S. (eds) (2015) Alternative Salvations: Engaging the sacred and secular. London:  Bloomsbury 

 

Chapters in Books

2018 ‘Addiction and Forgiveness’ (with Cook, C.C.H.).  In S. Hance (Ed.), Forgiveness in Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

2018 

 ‘Twelve Step Mutual Aid: Spirituality, vulnerability and recovery’ in Harvey, S., Steidinger, S., & Beckford, J., (Eds) New Religious Movements and Counselling: Academic, Professional and Personal Perspectives. London: Routledge

2015    

‘Reflections on the language of salvation in twelve step recovery’ in Bacon, H., Dossett, W., & Knowles, S. (2015) Alternative Salvations: Engaging the sacred and secular. London:  Bloomsbury

2008  

'Learning About and Learning From’: Reflections on the significance of T/RS method debates for modern Religious Education’: in M. Warrier and S. Oliver (eds), Theology and Religious Studies: The Disciplines and Their Boundaries, Edinburgh: T and T Clark.

1999 

'East Asian Traditions' in Ninian Smart (ed) World Atlas of Religions, London, Calmann and King

1994

'Japanese Religions' in Human Nature and Destiny, (Themes in Religious Studies series) edited by Jean Holm and John Bowker, London, Pinter

1994 

'Japanese Religions' in Picturing God, (Themes in Religious Studies series) edited by Jean Holm and John Bowker, London, Pinter

Edited Journal Special Issue

2014       

With Cook, C. C. H, Religion and Addiction. Religion.  MDPI Open Access http://www.mdpi.com/journal/religions/special_issues/religion-addiction

Journal Articles

2017     

 ‘A daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.’ A commentary on Kelly, J. F. (2016). Is Alcoholics Anonymous religious, spiritual, neither? Findings from 25 years of mechanisms of behavior change research: How AA works. Addiction. 112. 6 pp 942-943 https://doi.org/10.1111/add.13731

2013    

‘Addiction, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps’ in International Social Work. May, Vol. 56, No.2.  

(article selected by Psychology Progress, (http://psychologyprogress.com/), as a ‘Key Research Article’, September 2013: ‘selected from a wide variety of peer reviewed journals and … judged to be of major importance in their respective fields’.)

2007

‘Shin and the Diversity of Buddhism’ Shap Journal, London: Shap Working Party for World Religions in Education

1996  

‘Speaking for the Buddha: phenomenological and confessional approaches in teaching Buddhism’ Journal of Beliefs and Values Vol 17 no.1

1994

‘A Foretaste of the Pure Land: The Great Buddha of Ushiku ARCADIA’ The Middle Way

Book reviews have been published in

  • Fieldwork in Religion
  • Journal of Contemporary Religion
  • The Middle Way – Journal of the British Buddhist Society

Media, Podcasts and Blogs

Membership of Learned Societies 

  •  British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)
  • National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE)
  • Association of University Lecturers in Religious Education (AULRE)
  • UK Association of Buddhist Studies (UKABS)
  • Shap Working Party for Religions in Education (Shap)
  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA)

Grants received:

Source 

Funding (£K)

Date

Project Details

Centre for Research into Environment & Health (CREH)

2.0

2011

Start-up funding to explore health & environmental aspects of recovery from addiction.

University of Chester (UoC)

3.0

2012

Research Capacity Building Grant – Higher Power Project

Alcohol Research UK (ARUK)

0.6

2012

Support for University of Chester conference “Addiction: A Spiritual Illness with a Spiritual Solution?”

Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA)

1.0

2013

Support for University of Chester conference “Faith-based Solutions to Addiction/Practitioners’ Seminar: Spirituality and Twelve Step Recovery

Sir Halley Stewart Trust (SHST)

25.8

2013/14

Higher Power Project – A study of the spirituality of people in 12-Step recovery

University of Chester

12.0

14.8

2012/13

2013/14

HPP Knowledge Transfer projects, establishment of CSARS Group

Welsh Government

15.0

2013/14

Wrexham Recovery from Addiction Pilot Project (WRAPP)

Shropshire Council

25.3

2014/15

Oswestry and Shrewsbury Recovery Projects

Welsh Government

26.7

2014/15

North Wales Recovery Project – Colwyn Bay and Wrexham Recovery projects

Welsh Government

25.0

2015/16

North Wales Recovery Project – Bangor, Flint and Rhyl Recovery projects

North Wales Recovery Community

5.0

2016/17

Penrhyn Recovery Project - Bangor

Welsh Government

5.0

2018/19

Penrhyn Recovery Project - Bangor

North Wales Recovery Community

1.0

2018/19

Penrhyn Recovery Project - Bangor

Total

£162.2K

 

 

 

 

Qualifications

BA(Hons), PhD (Wales), PGCE (Secondary RE), PG Cert HE, FHEA.