Victor B. Carlson

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PsyD Clinical 1991
Peterson Prize

Since receiving his PsyD in 1991, Victor B. Carlson has made outstanding contributions to professional psychology. He has been a quintessential “renaissance psychologist,” simultaneously and comfortably employing cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, and family systems concepts and approaches; working both at the individual clinical level in providing direct services, and at the community and organizational levels in the planning, administration, and evaluation of services to difficult and challenging populations; and working in a wide variety of settings, as detailed below. 

After graduation, Dr. Carlson began his career as a staff psychologist at a NJ community mental health center, providing individual, group and family therapy, and developing a treatment program for substance abusing adolescents. At this time, Dr. Carlson also began a private practice, which he has actively maintained over the years, in part to keep him grounded in the delivery of direct clinical services.

Dr. Carlson then took on a series of increasingly responsible administrative positions in directing substance abuse programs in the VA Healthcare System hospitals in Lyons and East Orange, NJ, culminating in his role as Coordinator of all VA Substance Abuse Programs, encompassing residential, day treatment, outpatient, and community outreach programs. His achievements included designing an integrated assessment and treatment planning system for the substance abuse programs; leading the department through JCAHO hospital accreditation surveys (achieving scores of 98 and 100); chairing the VA Substance Abuse Consortium for New York and New Jersey; and serving on the National Task Force for Best Practices in Residential Treatment. As a reflection of the value of his work, Dr. Carlson received a Special Contribution Award for redesigning VA Substance Abuse Services, which resulted in annual savings of over $900,000.

Dr. Carlson next went on to become the Chief of the Psychology Services at Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus, NJ. His accomplishments there included the development of a recovery-based model of psychosocial rehabilitation; redesigning a utilization management system to identify and overcome barriers to discharge, resulting in the tripling of the number of long-stay patients returning to the community; developing a behavioral management system to reduce the frequency of seclusion and restraint by 40% in one year, and facilitating the preparation for JCAHO and HCFA/CMS hospital accreditation surveys by implementing an interdisciplinary, action planning system. 

After over two years in the Meadowview role, Dr. Carlson became a half-time Mental Health Consultant at the Edison Job Corps Academy in Edison, NJ, which is a residential academic and vocational training program serving 550 underprivileged youth, ages 16 to 24. In this position Dr. Carlson was responsible for all mental health services provided at the Academy, including staff training and supervision (in part involving GSAPP practicum students), and consultation with administrators, teachers, trade instructors, and residential staff. He also led the development of national standards for assessment and treatment planning. In conjunction with these activities, Dr. Carlson made this agency into one of GSAPP’s outstanding practicum training sites.

In addition to his clinical and administrative accomplishments, Dr. Carlson has been a co-author of a number of research publications and has taught in a variety of settings including GSAPP, the FAS Department of Psychology at Rutgers-New Brunswick, and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark.

In the fall of 2007, Dr. Carlson assumed what, in his view, is the most exciting and challenging role of his career. As Chief of Homeless Services for the VA in New Jersey, he has a multi-million dollar budget and directs a staff of over 70, who provide wide-ranging services to hundreds of veterans, including those recently returned from Iraq. Of particular note, the span of his responsibility includes the running of several “affirmative” businesses that currently employ over 100 formerly homeless and severely mentally ill veterans. The new position seems a fitting continuity of Dr. Carlson’s career of clinical and administrative leadership in the development of programs for challenging and high-need populations.