John Brekke

Contact Information
University Park
Department of Study 
Adults and Healthy Aging
Research Interest 
Mental Health
Frances G. Larson Professor of Social Work Research
PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1984
MSW, University of Hawaii, 1979
BA, University of Hawaii, 1976

JOHN BREKKE joined the faculty in 1984. Since then, 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. In 1994, Dr. Brekke received the Armin Loeb Achievement in Research Award from the International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services, and in 1999, he accepted the Excellence in Research Award from the Society for Social Work and Research.

Since the moment he became intrigued with serious brain disorders as an undergraduate psychology major at the University of Hawaii, Dr. John Brekke has been pursuing methods to improve the lives of the seriously mentally ill and the services they receive. His experiences in a state hospital and other clinical settings only bolstered his desire to improve their quality of life, and as the Frances G. Larson Professor of Social Work Research at USC, he has focused his research on community-based services for those struggling with schizophrenia, cognitive deficits and other severe mental illnesses.

Following his undergraduate studies, Brekke volunteered at a state hospital in Hawaii, where he worked with the most serious cases of mental illness. He also spent time on the brain injury unit involved in cognitive remediation, where he began delving into issues surrounding brain functioning. “It was a very rich time for me in terms of my own development,” Brekke says.

While pursuing a master’s degree in social work at the University of Hawaii, he worked with renowned scholars Joel Fischer, Charles Glisson and Walter Hudson. During a subsequent stint at a private inpatient psychiatric hospital, Brekke was immersed in progressive psychosocial approaches to mental health treatment, and also worked with men involved in domestic violence. A few years later, he decided he wanted to blend his clinical and research interests and entered the PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he focused his dissertation and early publications on the emerging Assertive Community Treatment model.

Having completed his studies in 1984, Brekke joined the USC faculty and began pursuing clinical services research. His first federally funded study explored how service characteristics influence client outcomes by following approximately 179 people with schizophrenia in the community. Other projects he has undertaken included studies focused on biological indicators of treatment response, translation and uptake of evidence-based interventions, and an evaluation of California’s Mental Health Services Act.

In addition to continuing his work on translational research through the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at USC, Brekke is currently engaged in a handful of studies, including one that seeks to explore how cognitive deficits impact the lives of those with schizophrenia. After videotaping participants for up to 20 hours, he is working with anthropologists to code the data and examine links between measures of functioning and cognition. Other work involves developing a peer navigator model—training those with personal experience in the mental health system to guide others with serious mental illness. “I feel like we are really impacting people’s lives immediately and profoundly with that intervention,” he says.

An avid mentor, Brekke involves doctoral students in many aspects of his research, from community outreach and data analysis to publication and presentation of findings. He views his mentoring role as critical to training the next generation of scholars and sets high standards for their performance.

Awards and Distinction
Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2010-2013)
Board of Directors, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (2012)
Fellow, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (2011)
Guest Co-Editor (with Alice Medalia), Themed Issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin on motivation in schizophrenia (2010)
USC Mellon Mentoring Award, Culture of Mentoring award (2009)
Board of Directors, Pacific Clinics, Arcadia, CA, annual budget $95,000,000 (2006-present)
Board of Directors, Portals House, Los Angeles, CA, annual budget $15,000,000 (2003-2006)
Standing Member, Services Research Review Committee, National Institute of Mental Health (2000-2006)
Sterling Frankling Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, USC School of Social Work (2002)
Installed as the Frances Larson Professor of Social Work Research, USC School of Social Work (2001)
Elected to Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society (2001)
Excellence in Research Award, Society for Social Work and Research (1999)
Armin Loeb Achievement in Research Award, International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services (1994)
Distinguished Faculty Award, Los Amigos de la Humanidad, University of Southern California (1992)
University Scholar, University of Southern California (1990)
Graduated with Distinction, University of Hawaii (1976)
More awards
Selected Publications

Davis, L., Fulginiti, A., Kriegel, L. & Brekke, J.S. (2012). Deinstitutionalization? Where have all the people gone?. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(3), 259-269.

Edmondson, M., Pahwa, R., Lee, K.K., Hoe, M. & Brekke, J.S. (2012). A dual change model of life satisfaction and functioning for individuals with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 139(1-3), 110-115.

Bromley, E., Adams, G.F. & Brekke, J.S. (2012). A video ethnography approach for linking naturalistic behaviors to research constructs of neurocognition in schizophrenia. Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, 24(2), 125-140.

Davis, L., Kurzban, S. & Brekke, J.S. (2012). Self-esteem as a mediator of the relationship between role functioning and symptoms for individuals with severe mental illness: A prospective analysis of Modified Labeling theory.Schizophrenia Research, 137(1-3), 185-189.

Guada, J., Hoe, M., Floyd, R., Barbour, J. & Brekke, J.S. (2012). How family factors impact psychosocial functioning for African American consumers with schizophrenia. Community Mental Health Journal, 48(1), 45-55.

Guada, J., Hoe, M., Floyd, R., Barbour, J. & Brekke, J.S. (2011). The importance of consumer perceived criticism on clinical outcomes for outpatient African Americans with schizophrenia. Community Mental Health Journal, 47(6), 637-645.

Bromley, E. & Brekke, J.S. (2010). Assessing function and functional outcome in schizophrenia. In Swerdlow, N (Eds.) The Behavioral Neurobiology of Schizophrenia and its Treatment. New York, NY: Springer Press.

Nakagami, E., Brekke, J.S. & Hoe, M. (2010). The prospective relationships among intrinsic motivation, neurocognition, and community functioning in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 36(5), 935-948.

Medalia, A. & Brekke, J.S. (2010). Editors’ Introduction: In search of a theoretical structure for understanding motivation in schizophrenia.Schizophrenia Bulletin, 36(5), 912-918.

Guada, J., Floyd, R., Barbour, J. & Brekke, J.S. (2010). Assessing the family functioning of inner-city African American families living with schizophrenia with the McMaster Family Assessment Device. Social Work in Mental Health, 8(3), 238-253.

Kurzban, S., Davis, L. & Brekke, J.S. (2010). Vocational, Social, and Cognitive Rehabilitation for Individuals Diagnosed With Schizophrenia: A Review of Recent Research and Trends. Current Psychiatry Reports, 12(4), 345-355.

Yamada, A., Lee, K., Lee, T.Q., Barrio, C. & Brekke, J.S. (2010). Intrinsic motivation as a mediator of relationships between symptoms and functioning among individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders in a diverse urban community. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198, 28=34.

Brekke, J.S. & Nakagami, E. (2010). The relevance of neurocognition and social cognition for outcome and recovery in schizophrenia. In Rodel, M. and Medalia, A (Eds.) Understanding and Treating Neuro- and Social Cognition in Schizophrenia. (pp. 23-36). Basel, Switzerland : Karger Publishers.

Lee, K.K., Brekke, J.S., Yamada, A. & Chou, C. (2010). The longitudinal measurement invariance of the Satisfaction with Life Scale for individuals with schizophrenia. Research on Social Work Practice, 20, 234 - 241.

Brekke, J.S. & Gioia, D. (2009). Neurocognition, ecological validity and daily living in the community for individuals with schizophrenia: A mixed methods study., 72, 94-107.

Guada, J., Brekke, J.S., Floyd, R. & Barbour, R. (2009). The relationships among perceived criticism, family contact, and consumer clinical and psychosocial functioning for African-American consumers with schizophrenia. Community Mental Health Journal, 45(2), 106-116.

Brekke, J.S., Hoe, M. & Green, M.F. (2009). Neurocognitive change, functional change, and service intensity during community-based psychosocial rehabilitation for schizophrenia. Psychological Medicine , 39, 1637-1647.

Brekke, J.S., Phillips, E., Pancake, L., Oh, A., Lewis, J. & Duke, J. (2009). Implementation practice and implementation research: A report from the field.Research on Social Work Practice. (pp. 592-601).

Yamada, A.M. & Brekke, J.S. (2008). Addressing mental health disparities through clinical competence not just cultural competence: The need for assessment of socio-cultural issues in the delivery of evidence-based psychosocial rehabilitation services., 28(8), 1386-1399.

Yamada, A. & Brekke, J.S. (2008). Addressing mental health disparities through clinical competence not just cultural competence: The need for assessment of sociocultural issues in the delivery of evidence-based psychosocial rehabilitation services. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 1386--1399.

Nakagami, E., Hoe, M., Xie, B. & Brekke, J.S. (2008). Intrinsic motivation, neurocognition, and psychosocial functioning in schizophrenia: Testing mediator and moderator effects., 105, 95-104.

Hoe, M. & Brekke, J.S. (2008). Testing the construct validity of a second order factor model of the Brief Symptom Inventory across three ethnic groups for individuals diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness.Research on Social Work Practice, 19, 93-103.

Hoe, M. & Brekke, J.S. (2008). Testing the measurement invariance of the Brief Symptom Inventory across three ethnic groups for individuals diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness. Social Work Research , 32(2), 71-78.

Flynn, M., Brekke, J.S. & Soydan, H. (2008). The Hamovitch Research Center: An experiment in collective responsibility. Social Work Research, 32(4), 260-268.

Brekke, J.S., Hoe, M., Long, J. & Green, M.F. (2007). How neurocognition and social cognition influence functional change during community-based psychosocial rehabilitation for individuals with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 33, 1247-56.

Peer, J.E., Kupper, Z., Brekke, J.S., Long, J.D. & Spaulding, W.D. (2007). Identifying mechanisms of recovery in psychosocial rehabilitation of schizophrenia: Longitudinal analytic methods. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 696-714.

Long, J.D., Harring, J.R., Brekke, J.S., Test, M.A. & Greenberg, J. (2007). Longitudinal construct validity of Brief Symptom Inventory subscales in schizophrenia. Psychological Assessment, 19, 298-308.

Brekke, J.S. (2007). Translational science at the National Institute of Mental Health: Can social work take its rightful place?. Research on Social Work Practice , 17, 123-133.

Test, M.A., Greenberg, J., Long, J., Brekke, J.S. & Senn-Burke, S. (2005). The construct validity of a measure of subjective satisfaction with life of adults with serious mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 56(3), 292-300.

Brekke, J.S., Kay, D., Kee, K. & Green, M.F. (2005). Biosocial pathways to functional outcome in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 80(2-3), 213-225.

Brekke, J.S., Nakagami, E., Kee, K. & Green, M.F. (2005). Cross-ethnic differences in perception of emotion in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 77(2-3), 289-298.

Brekke, J.S., Greenburg, J. & Test, M.A. (2004). Direct assessment of functional abilities: relevance to persons with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 72(1), 53-67.

Bae, S.W., Brekke, J.S. & Bola, J.R. (2004). Ethnicity and treatment outcome variation in schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of community based psychosocial rehabilitation interventions. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 192, 623-28.

Kee, K., Green, M.F., Mintz, J. & Brekke, J.S. (2003). Is emotion processing a predictor of functional outcome in schizophrenia?. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 29, 487- 498.

Gioia, D. & Brekke, J.S. (2003). Knowledge and use of workplace accommodations and protections by young adults with schizophrenia: A mixed method study. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 27(1), 59-68.

Bae, S.W. & Brekke, J.S. (2003). The measurement of self-esteem among Korean Americans: A cross-ethnic study of individuals with schizophrenia.Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9(1), 16-33.

Brekke, J.S., Prindle, C., Bae, S.W. & Long, J. (2002). Reply: Risk for individuals with schizophrenia who are living in the community. Psychiatric Services, 53, 485.

Brekke, J.S. (2002). The structure and invariance of a model of social functioning in schizophrenia. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 190, 63-72.