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Q&A: Gerald Juhnke, UTSA Department of Counseling

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Gerald Juhnke, a professor in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development, has more than 30 years of clinical and research experience in counseling.

Juhnke's expertise focuses on crisis intervention and in-home therapy with couples and families dealing with substance abuse and personality disorders. He has authored and co-authored several academic books, scholarly articles and has received numerous teaching and counseling awards including the American Counseling Association's David K. Brooks' Distinguished Mentor Award and the American Counseling Association's Ralph F. Berdie Research Award, to name a few.

We asked Juhnke to provide an update on his research and teaching in the UTSA Department of Counseling.

Tell us about your research. What drew you to where you are now?

My research agenda has focused on life-threatening behaviors, specifically the intersection of violence (i.e., school shootings, bullying, suicide), substance use, family counseling and clinical assessment.

The genesis for my research came from my work as an intensive in-home family crisis counselor. I counseled couples and families fulfilling "dual diagnoses" (a substance use disorder such as heroin or cocaine and a comorbid personality disorder such as antisocial or borderline personality disorder). Each family also experienced chronic and acute suicide, domestic violence, addictions and child abuse issues. These clinical experiences provided the basis for my scholarly research, writing and assessment instruments specific to school violence, suicide, substance abuse and child abuse and neglect.

More recently, I co-authored both the Juhnke-Balkin Life Balance Inventory (JBLI) and the Juhnke-Balkin Life Balance Inventory for Adolescents (JBLI-A) with my very good friend Dr. Rick Balkin at the University of Mississippi. The JBLI is unique, because it was validated on both clinical and nonclinical populations. It assesses 13 life-balance domains ranging from mood and substance use to stress and significant-other relationship satisfaction. The JBLI-A is currently undergoing validation and assesses domains specific to adolescents and their well-being.

The intent behind my research has always been to help others. Specifically, I want to implement research studies and create assessment instruments that help counselors more accurately and thoroughly assess suicide, substance abuse and violence risk. Clinically, this promotes earlier counseling interventions and increases the probability of safety and healthy functioning.

Although the JBLI and JBLI-A can assess immediate clinical risk (i.e., suicide, depression, etc.), they also provide an overall life satisfaction assessment. Thus, these instruments can be useful to test takers seeking to understand how their overall life satisfaction and degrees of stress compare to others. Again, learning how one's scores in these areas compare to others' scores helps individuals better understand how to manage life and take care of themselves. 

What impact do you hope your research will have?

My hope is that counselors can use my research to increase their clinical knowledge to better assess and serve their clients and client families. My ultimate goal is to reduce suicide and violent behavior, especially among youth.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in entering your field?

Enjoy yourself and gain a diversity of experiences. Volunteer everywhere you can. Volunteer experiences will increase your skills to effectively connect, communicate and interact with others. Volunteering will also help you better understand professional fields that are a match for your personality and interests.

What makes your UTSA department unique?

UTSA's Counseling Department has some of the most caring and compassionate students I have ever encountered, and all are dedicated to serving others. Many were successful in other professional fields and now have returned to attain their graduate degrees so they can improve our society. Through their dedication to help people, these students are making a positive impact in ways I never imagined.

Tell us about an inspiring experience you had as a professor.

Although I have had many incredible and inspiring experiences with my UTSA students, the one experience that has inspired me most is watching our graduates serve and positively impact our San Antonio community and world for the greater good.

For example, this past fall, I watched UTSA alumna Ms. Abigail Moore, Chief Executive Officer, at the San Antonio Council of Alcohol and Drug Awareness, address donors and sponsors. She is a born leader who is awe-inspiring. Her success story is one of perseverance and service to others. Learning how she is using her UTSA education and leadership position to prevent alcohol and drug abuse in San Antonio and neighboring counties while also serving San Antonians struggling with addictions has inspired me beyond words.

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