Workshop and Lecture Topics

I’m a New York State Licensed Master Social Worker, sociologist, author, journalist, artist, and holistic healer. My work (and world-view) is integrated, interdisciplinary, lively, higher-powered and hands-on.

 “No Theory without Praxis, No Faith without Works”

Integrating social work wisdom, a sociological imagination, critical analysis, creativity, and intuitive arts healing, I offer formal and informal lectures, coaching and training workshops for individuals, groups and organizations in a variety of natural and institutional settings; high schools, universities, churches, human services agencies, youth services, libraries, cafes, hospitals, and rehabilitation facilities. 

Sample topics include:
  • Youth and Military Suicide
  • Writing Social Science for Public Consumption
  • The Social Memoir as Reflexive Sociology
  • Spirituality and Popular Culture
  • Addiction, Creativity and Trauma
  • The Social History of Surfing
  • Protest Music in History
  • Alienation, and Youth Subculture
  • Engaging Youth at-Risk
  • Suicide and Homicide
  • Faith.Alt: Creating and Sustaining Spiritual Communities
  • Reiki for Renewal & Recovery: Self-care, Energy Healing and Wellness Training
  • Ministry with a small “m”: Calling and Vocation Beyond Church Walls
  • Holistic Healing in Human Services
  • Spirituality in the Helping Professions
  • Healing Through Music
  • Creating Sacred Space: Self-care for Stressed Out Times
  • Sacred Profanities: Locating the Divine in Everyday Life
  • Journaling Towards the Self
  • Body Respect

(for more information on holistic health and healing services please visit Donna Gaines Healing)


“I can assure you there will never be a dull moment with Donna Gaines.
Her rare ability to deliver original insights and learned commentary
with economy and panache makes her a national treasure.”

—-Professor Andrew Ross, American Studies/Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Donna Gaines is a powerful and brilliant speaker. She has the unique capacity of combining in her presentations a very sophisticated theoretical approach with a very thorough empirical analysis. Through her sensitive and precise style she is capable of creating a very strong bond with her audiences. Her great intelligence and her impressive oratory skills make of her one of the best public speakers I’ve worked with.

—Professor Diane Pacom— Sociology, University of Ottawa/ Social Commentator, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Donna and I have written for some of the same publications. Her writing is robust, curious, informed, intelligent, witty and above all empathetic. She brings great care and skill to everything she writes.

—–John Leland, Journalist, New York Times

Donna Gaines is truly an inspiration. She was my professor at Barnard College years ago, teaching the class Sociology of Youth. Her cool, fresh approach to material, plus great skills as a writer and thinker, had a deep effect on so many students. For years now I have considered Donna a mentor, someone whose knowledge of music, sociology and now the healing community makes her unique and expertly qualified.

—Solvej Schou, Journalist, Associate Press.

Donna is one of the sharpest observers of culture and pop music that I’ve ever had the pleasure to follow, both through her books and articles for various outlets, but most especially for the Village Voice. I raved, with good reason, in a book review of ‘Misfit’s Manifesto,’ and I stand by that rave today.

—Gil Asakawa , Music Editor , Westword

I assigned stories to Donna when I was Rolling Stone’s music editor in the late ’90s and found her an absolute delight to work with. She has a strong, authentic, and conversational writing style that seamlessly blends her expertise as a sociologist with her knowledge and love of rock & roll. And she genuinely understands young people, particularly young girls. Donna’s work — whether her magazine journalism or her books — is informative, entertaining and very rewarding. A genuine rock & roll bad girl!

—-Mark Kemp, Editor, Rolling Stone

From our first meeting at Barnard, Dr. Donna Gaines has been and continues to be a mentor, role model, teacher (in both a spiritual and academic sense), and inspiration for me. It is utterly, completely and without reservation that I highly recommend her to… uh… um…well, she can do just anything.”

—-Rani Karnik, Lawyer and Musician.

Donna Gaines is an internationally known academic who synthesizes the wisdom of her life experience with a deep spiritual insight that is yet attuned to the pulse of popular culture.

—Nicholas Birns, Professor, New School University

Donna’s talk at the Cultural Studies conference in April 2005 was one of those experiences that reconfirm one’s faith in what they are doing. Straightforwardly addressing the predicament youth are struggling over in countercultural contexts, she contributed to my reemerging passion for the topics I had been dealing with. The authentic energy with which she delivered the talk also made me remap my own rock & roll heart.

—Nikolina Knezevic, English Department, University of Novi Sad, Serbia.

“ Donna Gaines connects with her audiences with witty and
engaging styles- she has that rare quality where she never dumbs-down, yet remains unpretentious and informed.”

—-Professor Mike Ayers, Sociology, Manhattan College, NY

Dr. Donna Gaines gave a powerful and effective presentation of her work on youth suicide to a large audience of students and faculty at Nassau Community College. Students were deeply engaged during the talk and participated enthusiastically in the question and answer session afterwards. Dr. Gaines presented difficult material in a clear and engaging manner. My students’ comments afterward showed a solid understanding of her presentation and, more importantly, an increased interest and concern about the issues involved. That is so because Dr. Gaines combines a high level of knowledge with an openness and sincerity that are too rare in academia. We hope for a return visit.”

—-Lyle A. Hallowell, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Sociology, Nassau Community College, NY

“Donna is boundary-busting scholar and activist who seamlessly integrates personal history, cultural critique, and ethnography with her intuitive regard for the well being of others. She’s a quintessential New Yorker; that is, she’s spirited, brazen, and she’s got a huge heart. Donna is a socio-healer who’s made a wholehearted commitment to caring for youth who’ve been subjected to violence and apathy in all forms. Live, she’s as bold, witty, and lyrical as she is in print.”

—–Audra DiPadova, Assistant Director, Women’s Leadership Program, Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles, California

Donna has become something of a hero to several generations of misfits looking for a way to engage an increasingly hostile and restrictive society. She gains the trust of the kids because she deserves their trust; she has earned it; she has credibility. She truly helps kids overcome deficits in the cultural capital needed to become an intellectual. Donna Gaines brings sociology to folks who would never discovery sociology, she makes social theory cool, and she helps all of us think a little bit differently about the work we do.

—–Kevin Delaney, Professor; Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Temple University

Sample Print Interviews: 

“Sacred Profanities: Youth Alienation, Popular Culture, and Spirituality”
Interview by sociologist Ben Frymer

“A Rebel with a Theory”
FOOTNOTES, American Sociological Association, April 2004

“Profile: Dr. Donna Gaines”
Current Biography, Vol 67, no. 6, June 2006