Dr Wendy Dossett

Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies

My research interests focus on the variety of religious and spiritual influences on contemporary human life and culture, in relation to anxiety and dislocation associated with modernity, and also on the relationship between religion, society and education. The open, enquiring, academic study of religions at every level of education should be defended, resourced and supported.

Telephone 01244 513 975
Email w.dossett@chester.ac.uk
Skype name wendy.dossett


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


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, resulting in distorted presentations. On my return from Japan I trained as a secondary school 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. Too often the insights of HE fail to reach the secondary sector, and much of both my published work and the training I provide for teachers hopes to address this in a small way. I am also interested in wider theoretical questions about the relationship between religious education, religions, non-religion and society.

I have two decades of experience as a principal examiner (Asian Religions and Religion in Contemporary Society) for the WJEC and Eduqas, 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 am interested in the contemporary practice of mindfulness, and have trained as a mindfulness teacher through Bangor University. The use of mindfulness in treating substance use disorders is a particular area of interest, but I also have wider questions around the relationship between mindfulness and Buddhism; the disconnect between the 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.


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.



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.  


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.

Published work

Text Books


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


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


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


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


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


Chapters in Books



 ‘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


‘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


'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.



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



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


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


Edited Journal Special Issue


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


Journal Articles


 ‘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


‘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’.)


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


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


‘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

Things Unseen: 20th Mar 2015  Addiction and Faith – the Twelve Step programmes

Religious Studies Project. 12th Nov 2014: Narrative and Reflexivity in the Study of Religion  - roundtable.

Beyond Belief. Radio Four.  8th Mar 2013:  Religion and Addiction

William Temple Foundation: 7th Oct 2015  Is Spiritual Anonymity Depriving Us of Addiction Recovery Role Models?

TRS Chester: 21st Dec 2014: Draft Subject Content for A-Level RS: A Response

TRS Chester: 2nd May 2014: Reflections: The Morning After (on the death of Peaches Geldof) 


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


Funding (£K)


Project Details

Centre for Research into Environment & Health (CREH)



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

University of Chester (UoC)



Research Capacity Building Grant – Higher Power Project

Alcohol Research UK (ARUK)



Support for UoC conference “Addiction: A Spiritual Illness with a Spiritual Solution?”

Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA)



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

Sir Halley Stewart Trust (SHST)



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

University of Chester





HPP Knowledge Transfer projects, establishment of CSARS Group

Welsh Government



Wrexham Recovery from Addiction Pilot Project (WRAPP)

Shropshire Council



Oswestry and Shrewsbury Recovery Projects

Welsh Government





North Wales Recovery Project – Colwyn Bay and Wrexham recovery projects

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