Arbeitsgruppe für Empirische Religionsforschung (AGER)

Dr. Sonja Friedrich-Killinger

Sonja Friedrich-KillingerAs a graduated psychologist and certified psychotherapist I work for years on the question of the impact of religion, religious experience and religious attachment on mental health and in particular on the therapeutic process. Currently there are only a few theoretically substantiated models that concentrate on the effect relationship between religious/spiritual interventions and mental health. Therefore I developed a theoretically based model (RIAG-model) and its empi­ri­cal verification in my dissertation. It combines different perspectives especially differential psychology, social psychology and the psychology of religion to illuminate the effectiveness of religious attachment in psychotherapeutic treatment. Notably the field of attachment re­search offers the opportunity to generate qualitative describable data with quantitative me­thods. My research interests are mainly in the field of clinical attachment research, the psychology of religion — particularly „religion and attachment“, „religion and mental health“ — as well as in psychotherapy research. In this context I place emphasis not only on the cognitive aspects of religious attachment, but also on the affective-motivational aspects of religious experience and behavior. Methodically the validation of a German religious attach­ment measure is a worthwhile research goal for the near future.

Contact: e-mail

Curriculum Vitae

  • since 2014 Fellow at AGER (workgroup empirical research on religion), University of Bern
  • 2014 Lectureship at the protestant university of Marburg for “Early childhood attachment development, God relationship and religious development”
  • 06/10–05/14 PhD (magna cum laude) at the university of Jena. Dissertation: “A model of causal relationships between sensitive experiences in the relationship with God, the reorganization of internal working models and the improvement of mental health”
  • since 2011 Lecturing on the subject “religion and attachment”
  • 01-07/2007 Curriculum “Behavior therapy for children and adolescents“ at the Tübinger Akademie für Verhaltenstherapie (TAVT)
  • 05/04–09/04 Africa stay
  • 2000 – dato Practicing as a psychotherapist in own psychotherapy practice in Berlin/Stuttgart
  • 1999 Certification as graduate psychotherapist: behavior therapy
  • 1997 Lecturing with the focus: ADHD in childhood and adolescence
  • 1995–2000 Practicing as graduate psychologist in a psychological practice for children and adolescents in Esslingen
  • 1987–1994 Studies of psychology at the Technical University of Berlin, thesis “The early maternal influences on subsequent attachment quality of the child”
  • 1992 Employees in the research project “early childhood attachment” Freie Universität Berlin
  • 1991 Seminar on “Religion: cure or obstacle” at the Technical University Berlin; Department of psychology
  • 1989–1993 Lecturer at the chair of developmental psychology at the Technical University of Berlin. Main topics: adolescence, identity development, the early mother-child attachment. Theory focus: attachment theory John Bowlby, cognitive theory, Jean Piaget.


Friedrich-Killinger, Sonja (2014). Die Bindungsbeziehung zu Gott. Ein dynamischer Wirkfaktor in der Therapie? Hamburg: Dr. Kovac.

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Prof. Dr. Stefan Huber
Faculty of Theology
Länggassstrasse 51
3012 Bern