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MA Psychology of Religion

Course length
  • 1 year full-time
  • Not available to study part-time
  • An honours degree (normally 2.1 or above) or equivalent in psychology, religious studies, theology or another appropriate subject
  • PGCert Psychology of Religion
  • PGDip Psychology of Religion

NB: This programme is only available for full-time study in 2016/17.

Please see further details on the maximum period of study.

Investigate the intersection of psychology, philosophy and religious studies. The programme approaches religion from the standpoint of psychology, without assuming the truth of religious claims and values. By asking what psychology can offer to our understanding of people’s religious beliefs, values, and behaviour, you will explore relationships between religious belief and behaviour, as well as those between religion, mental health and well-being, and the importance of social and contextual factors in religious development.

It attracts teachers of religious education, mental health professionals, pastoral care workers, priests and ministers of religion. This degree takes into account that students will be coming from varied academic backgrounds and welcomes this diversity.

The timetable for 2016-17 can be found in the Postgraduate Options Handbook at the bottom of the page.

Teaching & Assessment

The programme consists of four taught modules and a dissertation. Students are assessed in each module through a combination of coursework and an end of year essay. The final dissertation of 12,000 – 15,000 words is on a research topic agreed by your supervisor.


Psychology and Religion

Focus on historical and theoretical approaches to understanding belief and practice, e.g. Freudian, Jungian, humanistic, phenomenological and behaviourist approaches.

This module offers understanding of the theoretical and historical foundations of the field:

  • The nature of psychology of religion, including its historical roots, its methods, and problems that face the field
  • Key thinkers such as William James, Sigmund Freud; Erich Fromm C.G. Jung; Gordon Allport, and B.F. Skinner
  • Motivational approaches (e.g., clinically based approaches to the need for religion and psychological structures that sustain belief)
  • Social-psychological approaches (e.g., characteristics of  believers and belief)
  • Behavioral and biological approaches (e.g. neuroscientifc correlates of religious experience)
Psychological Perspectives on Religious Development

Critically examine psychological and religious approaches to the evolution of religious faith and practice in the course of the life-cycle, e.g. in childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age.

Topics include:

  • Models of psychological development
  • Stages in the process of faith development
  • Issues in faith development at particular points in the life cycle
  • Nature and nurture
  • The relationship of psychological and theological models of faith development
Scientific Study of Religion

Look at main areas and methods of research and their value to the understanding of the individual.

This module introduces research methods commonly applied in the psychology of religion and critically examines major area of research. Students will have an opportunity to practice the application of the research approach and methods. Topics include:

  • Introduction to research methods
  • Religious conversion
  • Mysticism
  • Religious identity
  • Faith and psychotherapy
  • Fundamentalist thinking, authoritarianism, and prejudice
  • Quantitative, qualitative and hermeneutic approaches
  • The stages of developing a research project
Mental Health, Religion and Culture

Consider the cultural context of religious beliefs and the implications of culture and behaviour on mental health and illness.

This module explores the relationships between religion and mental health and the cultural contexts in which the concepts of mental health and religion are embedded.

  • Relationship between different models of mental health and religiousness
  • Psychiatry and views of mental health across cultures
  • Religious and spiritual issues in psychotherapy
  • Psychosis and visionary experience
  • Religion, self-esteem, shame, and guilt
  • Religion, dissociation and somatisation