John S. Brekke

Frances G. Larson Professor of Social Work Research

Professor of research and clinical courses in the MSW program and PhD courses on treatment outcome research and research grant writing.

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John Brekke
Phone:  +1 213.740.0297
Rank:  Tenure Track Faculty
Department:  Adult Mental Health and Wellness
Assignment:  Ground

John S. Brekke

Frances G. Larson Professor of Social Work Research

Professor of research and clinical courses in the MSW program and PhD courses on treatment outcome research and research grant writing.

Media Contact


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. 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. To reference the work of John Brekke online, we ask that you directly quote their work where possible and attribute it to "John Brekke, a faculty at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work” (LINK:



University of Wisconsin-Madison

PhD 1984

University of Hawaii

MSW 1979

University of Hawaii

BA 1976

Area of Expertise

  • Treatment Outcome Research
  • Mental Health
  • Healthy Aging
  • Grant Writing

Industry Experience

  • Research
  • Education/Learning

Research Interest

  • Mental Health


  • 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


nvestigator Award in Health Policy Research, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Excellence in Research Award, Society for Social Work and Research
Armin Loeb Achievement in Research Award, International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services

Articles & Publications

The Relationship between Social Competence, Symptom Severity and Employment in Schizophrenia | Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health

Mercedes Hernandez, Concepción Barrio, Caroline Lim, John S. Brekke
2017 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.


Integrating behavioral healthcare for individuals with serious mental illness: A randomized controlled trial of a peer health navigator intervention | Schizophrenia Research

Erin Kelly, Lei Duan, Heather Cohena, Holly Kigera, Laura Pancake, JohnBrekke
2017 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.


Comparison of Neurocognition and Social Cognition between Schizoaffective Disorder, Mood Disorders, and Schizophrenia | Social Work Research

Rong Xiao, Roxanne L. Bartel, John Brekke
2017 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.


System Transformation Under the California Mental Health Services Act: Implementation of Full-Service Partnerships in L.A. County | Psychiatric Services

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.
2017 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.