John Brekke joined the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work faculty in 1984, where he has taught research and clinical courses in the MSW program and PhD courses on treatment outcome research and research grant writing. Prior to assuming an academic appointment, Dr. Brekke held a number of clinical positions working with persons diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness in inpatient and outpatient settings. He has also done clinical practice and program development in the area of domestic violence, specializing in the structured treatment of men who batter.
Since 1989, Dr. Brekke has been the principal investigator on five longitudinal studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and one funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. His work focuses on the improvement of community-based services for individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness. He is currently a principal investigator on three NIMH grants. One studies the integration of biological aspects of mental disorder into psychosocial rehabilitation for individuals with schizophrenia, and he is developing biosocial models for understanding the course and outcome of schizophrenia. A second project seeks to speed the use of evidence-based practices into community-based treatment for individuals with schizophrenia. The third project uses mixed methods to study the transformation of community-based mental health services at the levels of policy implementation, organizational change and consumer outcomes. Dr. Brekke is also the functional outcomes core director on the NIMH-funded Center for the Study of Cognition and Emotion in Schizophrenia.
An extensive grant reviewer for federal agencies, he was a standing member of the Services Research Scientific Merit Review Committee at the National Institute of Mental Health for five years. Dr. Brekke publishes widely in mental health journals, including the most highly ranked journals in social work, psychology and psychiatry. He serves on the editorial boards of Social Service Review, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal and Research on Social Work Practice. In addition, he is a consulting editor for Social Work Research and a reviewer for 12 other interdisciplinary scientific journals.
University of Wisconsin-Madison: PhD 1984
University of Hawaii: MSW 1979
University of Hawaii: BA 1976
Areas of Expertise (4)
Industry Expertise (2)
nvestigator Award in Health Policy Research, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (professional)
Excellence in Research Award, Society for Social Work and Research (professional)
Armin Loeb Achievement in Research Award, International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services (professional)
- Board of Directors, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare
- Fellow, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare
- Guest Co-Editor (with Alice Medalia), Themed Issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin on motivation in schizophrenia
Media Appearances (5)
A new model for care: People with mental illness help others in the same situation
USC News online
A new model of care could improve the physical health and extend the lives of people with mental illness, who typically die 25 years earlier than the general population...“Peer navigators have proven effective at building a strong connection with clients, and this empowerment has resulted in patients having more outpatient visits with doctors, less preference for emergency room visits, more confidence in self-managing their own health care and better detection of diseases,” said principal investigator John Brekke, the Frances G. Larson Professor of Social Work at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
How people with schizophrenia stay productive and manage symptoms
USC News online
New research shows that people who have schizophrenia can still live independently, pursue higher education or hold down a demanding job – and many do just that, living full and productive lives.
“These findings will be useful for creating new interventions to help a wide range of individuals with schizophrenia cope with symptoms,” said John Brekke, the Frances G. Larson Professor of Social Work Research at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
UCLA-led study explores how people with schizophrenia stay productive while managing symptoms
UCLA Newsroom online
People who have schizophrenia may be worried that the disorder will prevent them from living independently, pursuing higher education or holding down a demanding job. In reality, many people do manage their illness and live full and highly productive lives.
A new study by researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and colleagues at the University of Southern California describes some of the strategies people with schizophrenia have used to overcome the disorder and function successfully in their careers. The research was published November 15 in the journal Psychiatric Services.
Reviewing grants can be a painstaking process
USC News online
The commitment required to be a federal grant reviewer is staggering. John Brekke, Frances G. Larson Professor of Social Work Research, has been consistently involved as a scientific reviewer at the federal level since 1989, serving as a standing member of a mental health services and epidemiology review committee at the National Institute of Mental Health for six years and as an ad hoc reviewer on many occasions.
Mental Health Peer Navigators Can Help Others in Need
Investigators at the University of Southern California (USC) believe a new care model can enhance the physical health and extend the lives of people with mental illness, who typically die 25 years earlier than the general population.
In a study published in Schizophrenia Research, investigators suggest the magic bullet may involve peer navigators. These trained role models use their life experience with recovery from mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression, to help motivate others who could self-manage their own health needs.
Articles & Publications (4)
Mercedes Hernandez, Concepción Barrio, Caroline Lim, John S. Brekke
Given the functional impairments associated with schizophrenia, engaging in work activities is challenging for most individuals with the illness. This study examined clinical and social barriers to employment among individuals with schizophrenia. Data came from a study on psychosocial rehabilitation involving 149 racially and ethnically diverse individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia who had recently enrolled in community-based mental health services.
Erin Kelly, Lei Duan, Heather Cohena, Holly Kigera, Laura Pancake, JohnBrekke
Individuals with serious mental illness also have high rates of comorbid physical health issues. To address those issues, this population needs interventions that improve self-management of health and healthcare.
Rong Xiao, Roxanne L. Bartel, John Brekke
The relationship between schizoaffective disorder (SA), schizophrenia (SZ), and mood disorders (MD) is not well understood. Evaluating and comparing cognitive impairment in these disorders can help clarify how these disorders are related. The study’s 47 participants with SZ, 94 with SA, and 39 with MD were evaluated with the Measurement and Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia Consensus Cognitive Battery.
Sarah L. Starks, Ph.D., Paul G. Arns, Ph.D., Howard Padwa, Ph.D., Jack R. Friedman, Ph.D., Jocelyn Marrow, Ph.D., Marcia L. Meldrum, Ph.D., Elizabeth Bromley, M.D., Ph.D., Erin L. Kelly, Ph.D., John S. Brekke, Ph.D., Joel T. Braslow, M.D., Ph.D.
The study evaluated the effect of California’s Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) on the structure, volume, location, and patient centeredness of Los Angeles County public mental health services.