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Professor Chris Cook


Fellow in the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing


I trained first in medicine, at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London, qualifying in 1981, and then specialised as a postgraduate in psychiatry at the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guys and St Thomas’s, also in London. Following this, my clinical and academic interests in psychiatry were largely in the field of addictive behaviour, and especially alcohol misuse. I held positions as Lecturer at University College, London (1987 to 1990) and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, London (1994 to 1997) as well as being Professor of the Psychiatry of Alcohol Misuse at the University of Kent from 1997 to 2003.

My academic work in psychiatry has been broad in scope. My doctoral thesis was on genetic effects upon the predisposition to alcohol misuse and dependence and was very biologically based. However, I have always also been interested in treatment approaches, including those based in the mutual help movement (of Alcoholics Anonymous and affiliated organisations) and those with religious roots, as well as those that are more medically based.

My own Christian faith has formed my approach to psychiatry since I was a student, and I gained an AKC at Kings College London (a theological qualification for “non-theologians”!) when studying medicine there in 1974 to 1976. I did not seriously embark upon academic study of theology until training for ordination as an Anglican priest much later in life. By this time, I was increasingly interested in inter-disciplinary issues between theology and psychiatry and my research publications have reflected this. I was ordained priest in Canterbury Cathedral in 2001.

Whilst studying for my MA in Applied Theology at the University of Kent (2002-2003) I undertook applied theological research around the subject of alcohol and addiction and this led to my writing a book on this subject (Alcohol, Addiction & Christian Ethics, CUP, 2006). This book explores the way in which accounts of the “divided self” in the writings of St Paul and St Augustine of Hippo might inform and extend scientific accounts of addictive disorder. I remain broadly interested in the ways in which theological accounts of human behaviour may inform, challenge and extend scientific perspectives.

I came to Durham in 2003, initially as a College chaplain, but also in order to continue my academic work in applied theology in the University. I enjoy working with students here and think it an enormous privilege to live and work in this beautiful and spiritual place. There are few better places to read a theological text than in one of Durham’s many coffee shops!

I was Director of the Centre for Spirituality, Theology & Health until my retirement in 2022. This project was collaborative between the Department of Theology & Religion and the School for Medicine, Pharmacy & Health (until the move of SMPH to Newcastle). It had collaborative links with health service delivery and spiritual/pastoral care. In support of this, I was an honorary consultant psychiatrist with Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust until 2017 and have been an honorary chaplain with them since April 2018. I am interested broadly in Christian spirituality. In the past, I have taught on the north east England Spiritual Direction training course, which used to be run jointly by Ushaw College & St Antony's Priory, and also at Cranmer Hall (the Anglican theological college).

My 2018 monograph, Hearing Voices, Demonic and Divine, provides a theological engagement with the latest scientific research on voice hearing (auditory verbal hallucinations). This work was undertaken as a part of my work for the Wellcome funded, AHRC award winning, Hearing the Voice project at Durham University, for which I am a Co-Investigator.

My previous monographs include The Philokalia and the Inner Life, which is concerned with theological and psychotherapeutic understandings of the nature of mental well-being. The Philokalia is an anthology of eastern Christian texts spanning the 4th to the 15th centuries. It offers important insights into the mental world of thoughts and prayer.

I have edited and co-edited a series of volumes on spirituality, theology and mental health, including, The Bible and Mental Health (2020, with Isabelle Hamley), Biblical and Theological Visions of Resilience (2020, with Nathan White), Mystical Theology and Contemporary Spiritual Practice: Renewing the Contemplative Tradition (2018, with Julienne McLean and Peter Tyler), and Spirituality and Narrative in Psychiatric Practice (2016, with Andrew Powell and Andrew Sims).

I was Director of the MA programme in Spirituality, Theology & Health, which, in 2017, won an honorable mention in the Expanded Reason Awards in Rome:

I was President of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality from 2014 until 2018, and an Executive Editor of the Journal for the Study of Spirituality from 2013-2020. I was Chair of the Executive Committee of the Special Interest Group in Spirituality & Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2009-2013.

In 2020 I was awarded the Canterbury Cross by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in recognition of my interdisciplinary work on theology and psychiatry. In 2021 I was recipient of the Oskar Pfister award from the American Psychiatric Association in recognition of my work on psychiatry and religion. 

Research Supervision

Esteem Indicators

  • 2021: Oskar Pfister Award: Oskar Pfister Award (2021), by the American Psychiatric Association, for outstanding contributions in the field of psychiatry and religion.
  • 2020: Canterbury Cross: Awarded by the Archbishop of Canterbury for interdisciplinary work on theology and psychiatry
  • 2020: Boyle Lecture: Boyle Lecturer (2020): on Mental Health and the Gospel


Authored book

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Supervision students