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Doni Whitsett - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Doni Whitsett Doni Whitsett

Clinical Professor of Social Work | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Professor Whitsett has expertise in cult-related issues and human sexuality.






Sects in the City - Cults On and Off Campus



Doni Whitsett is a licensed clinical social worker and has been teaching at USC for 27 years, previously at UCLA for six years. She has taught first-year foundation courses in practice and behavior and second-year courses in the Mental Health concentration. As an AASECT-certified sex therapist, she has designed and taught a human sexuality elective, as well as the courses required for state licensure for various agencies. She was given a Fulbright award in 2016 to study and teach sexuality in China. Since 1980 Dr. Whitsett also has had a private practice treating individuals, couples and families. Her specialties include neurobiology, human sexuality, personality disorders, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder with expertise in cult-related issues. She has several publications and has presented on these topics both nationally and internationally.

Education (3)

University of Southern California: PhD 1987

Case Western Reserve University: MSSA 1967

Pennsylvania State University: BA 1963

Areas of Expertise (7)

Cult-Related Issues


Human Sexuality

Adults and Healthy Aging


Personalty Disorders

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Industry Expertise (2)



Accomplishments (2)

Certificate of Excellence for integration of LGBT issues into the classroom (professional)

Awarded by USC.

Hutto Patterson Award for Teaching Excellence (professional)

Awarded by the OUSA.


Media Appearances (2)

How Cults Rewire the Brain

Huffington Post  online


"Increasing evidence suggests that experiencing trauma affects brain structure and function. These changes may better account for maladaptive behavior, such as persevering in actions that continue to produce painful outcomes, than psychological models, e.g., the person unconsciously 'wants' pain and suffering. A forthcoming issue of our organization’s magazine, ICSA Today, will include an interesting essay, 'Why Cults Are Harmful: Neurobiological Speculations on Interpersonal Trauma,' by Dr. Doni Whitsett of the University of Southern California School of Social Work..."

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Controversial anti-gay church to picket Malibu sanctuaries

The Malibu Times  online


"University of Southern California clinical professor of social work Doni Whitsett is an expert on human sexuality, cults and mental health issues. While she has not studied WBC thoroughly, she said aspects of WBC conform with cult behavior..."

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Research Articles & Publications (1)

Teaching MSW Social Work Practice in a Blended Online Learning Environment

Journal of Teaching in Social Work

2013 Blended learning is a newly emerging trend in higher education and is defined as the purposeful integration of synchronous and asynchronous learning to provide educational activities that maximize the benefits of each. This paper describes the development of a graduate social work foundation-year practice class in a blended online environment in which both asynchronous and synchronous ...

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