Wendy Dossett is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Chester, Director of Research for Chester Studies of Addiction, Recovery and Spirituality Group, and Principal Investigator of The Higher Power Project.

Dossett came to St David’s University College in 1987 to read English Literature and Religious Studies. She remembers the long bus journeys into Lampeter and the beautiful Ceredigion countryside, and also some of the campus characters and the legendary Conti’s ice cream.  

After graduating, Dossett went on to explore an interest in Buddhism through further study. As part of her Lampeter PhD, she was able to spend some time living in a Pure Land Buddhist Temple in Tokyo. Her thesis was entitled Essence and manifestation: some problems of definition in the study of religion with special reference to Jōdō Shinshū. She then trained (at Trinity College) as a religious education teacher. For the next six years, she was involved in the training of RE teachers and in the running of the Religious Education Resources Centre at the College. 

Dossett lectured in Religious Studies at the University of Wales Lampeter from 2000 to 2010. Her role included being a director of the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Centre. This houses an archive of over 6 000 accounts of religious and spiritual experience, reported by members of the public. Dossett also supervised the research work of many students and scholars who used the Alister Hardy collection. 

She worked for a year at the Rhoserchan Project, a residential drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation project, just outside Aberystwyth. This gave her first-hand experience upon which to build her later research in spirituality and addiction recovery. She trained as a mindfulness teacher through Bangor University and is particularly interested in the use of mindfulness in treating substance use disorders. 

After leaving Lampeter she became a senior lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Chester, where she is also Director of Research of the Chester Studies of Addiction, Recovery and Spirituality Group. Dossett describes her work as exploring ‘a variety of religious, spiritual and secular responses to anxiety and dislocation associated with modernity, especially in relation to the phenomenon of recovery from addiction.’ 

Dosset is the Principal Investigator of the Higher Power Project, a research project which seeks to record and map the range of understandings of ‘higher power’ or ‘power greater than themselves’ used by people in Twelve Step recovery from substance addictions. (Organizations using a Twelve-step program include Alcoholics Anonymous.) First of all, sufferers acknowledge that their own will power is inadequate. The second step is, ‘Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity’. However, this ‘higher power’ is not necessarily the god of religion. It may be the person’s friends or support group; it may be nature; it may be a force of some kind. Participants in Dossett’s project were asked to discuss what this higher power meant to them.  They found that participating in this research project often helped deepen their own recovery. Dossett has commented, ‘Whatever impacts my research does or doesn’t have for the Research Excellence Framework or REF, the fact that it has helped and reassured the very people who have generously shared their story with me means a great deal.’ 

Dossett was one of the co-editors of Alternative Salvations: Engaging the Sacred and the Secular, published by Bloomsbury in 2015. The volume examined broad concepts including ‘religious’, ‘secular’, ‘spiritual’, ‘post-Christian’, and ‘post-secular’; a series of studies questioned the usefulness of these wide categories. Dossett herself contributed a chapter on Twelve-Step Recovery, reviewing both the Christian origins of Alcoholics Anonymous and the use of ‘higher power’ language among its members. Dossett has also written a number of other journal articles and book chapters. Her most cited article is Addiction, Spirituality and 12-Step programmes, published in International Social Work, vol. 56, no. 3 (2013). This article was selected by Psychology Progress as a ‘Key Research Article’, ‘selected from a wide variety of peer reviewed journals and … judged to be of major importance in their respective fields’. 

In addition to her main research interest, Dossett is still involved in school religious education and in training teachers. For the last twenty years, she has been an A level principal examiner for one of the four Public Examination Boards. This has involved writing syllabuses, setting exam papers, leading marking teams and providing continuous professional development for teachers. She has written several textbooks for A levels and AS levels, (Religion in Contemporary Society; Religious Experience; Buddhism for AS Students and Judaism for AS Students). For ten years, she was secretary of the Shap Working Party for Religions in Education. For five years she represented TRS-UK, (the body acting on behalf of UK theology and religious studies departments), on the Religious Education Council of England and Wales. 

 Sources 

University of Chester (2020). Dr Wendy Dossett. Retrieved July 22 2020 from https://www1.chester.ac.uk/departments/theology-and-religious-studies/staff/wendy-dossett 

Wendy Dossett (2020). LinkedIn [Profile page]. Retrieved July 22 2020 from https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendy-dossett-2833a8a2/ 

Reed, M. (Producer). (Producer). (2019, May 11). Celebrating your unsung impacts. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved July 22 2020 from https://www.fasttrackimpact.com/podcast/episode/548d0c68/celebrating-your-unsung-impacts 

Alcoholics Anonymous (n.d.) The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved July 22 2020 from https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/About-AA/The-12-Steps-of-AA