The Project

Funded by a generous grant from the Sir Halley Stewart Trust, the Higher Power Project seeks to record and map the range of understandings of ‘Higher Power’ or ‘power greater than ourselves’ used by people in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs. Those in recovery through Twelve Step Programmes, or Treatment Centres which use the Twelve Steps, are likely to have some concept of Higher Power, but people in recovery through other methods may also use the concept, or have a response to it that they might like to share with the project team.

The findings of the project will help to inform a more accurate understanding of what is sometimes described as the spirituality of Twelve Step and other recovery programmes.  We hope that the analysed data will be of value to treatment providers, the medical profession, social workers and anyone interested in ways in which people in sustained recovery from substance use disorders build healthy new lives.

The Team

The project team has no fixed ideas about what notions of Higher Power ‘should’ be like. They are aware that the range of interpretations is vast, and they are simply interested in mapping that range. As well as having expertise in human health and the study of religion and spirituality, the team is experienced in working with people in recovery.

W Dossett Dr Wendy Dossett – Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Chester
Professor John Stoner – Professor of Addiction, Recovery and Spirituality at the University of Chester and Professorial Research Fellow at the Centre for Research into the Environment and Health, University of Aberystwyth.


The project team are asking volunteers with six months or more clean time or sobriety to fill in a short questionnaire. Participants may receive a twenty minute phone call from a member of the project team, to talk about their answers in greater depth.

If you would like to volunteer to participate in this study, please send an email to Please include the email address of a fellowship member or counsellor who knows that your length of clean time/sobriety is six months or longer, and is willing to vouch for this. Please ask their permission first before including their address.

More information on what to expect



“The UK Recovery Walk Charity is delighted to see the development of the Higher Power Project at the University of Chester. As recovering people, we know that the process an addicted individual goes through towards accepting their powerlessness over substances is one that is commonly misunderstood or misinterpreted by outsiders. So often this process is interpreted as either an avoidance of personal responsibility for one’s choices and behaviour, and/or a religious conversion. Paradoxically, it is the antithesis of both.

The Higher Power Project has already gone some way towards correcting this perception by voicing ordinary people in recovery, and we look forward to the ongoing development of this academic research project as new themes are explored. We are very grateful that this work has started and look forward to more insight, consciousness and understanding as a result.”

Annemarie Ward – Director: UK Recovery Walk Charity SC043961


“Thank you so much for this opportunity – I have never written all this stuff down before – it has been a really enlightening and uplifting experience – I think it is really important work you are doing as the concept of higher power and powerlessness is so misunderstood .”

Jock – Project Participant