On November 17, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2022 Health and Human Services Hero Awards to recognize individuals who are making a bold difference right here in the Central Valley. We will highlight the ten honorees in our Heroes Blog Series.

hero22_cjohnson_smName: Carol Johnson

Occupation: Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Nominated By: Department of Social Work Education

Long-time Yosemite resident and self-described “mountain woman” Carol Johnson has devoted her life to improving the mental health for the residents of Mariposa and Madera counties. It’s a topic that is deeply personal to her. When she was 13, her mother died of alcoholism. At that time, treatment facilities for addiction were not common. 

“When I took my first psychology course in the 1970’s, I came to believe that treatment for addiction was actually possible,” Johnson said. “Afterwards, I immediately declared psychology as my major.” 

Johnson went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology and later her Master of Social Work degree, both from Fresno State. She completed internships working with a child-abuse organization and teaching non-verbal autistic children ways to communicate, all of which furthered her dedication to the field of psychotherapy.

Johnson became a social worker for Mariposa County, conducting treatment groups, providing suicide prevention services, training foster parents, all while managing her case load and serving as a supervisor. She even provided support and outreach to her community after the devastation of forest fires. During this time, she became a licensed clinical social worker. 

Before her retirement last year, Johnson worked at Chowchilla Women’s Prison for nine years, where she held several positions, working with groups of prisoners as large as 1,200 within the general prison population and with others who were in special segregated populations, such as juvenile inmates, and those who were mentally ill or on death row. Among her many responsibilities was teaching dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills, provide crisis management and crisis intervention skills, prevent suicides, and help inmates struggling with substance use disorders to get and stay sober.

As a supervisor of several different mental health programs, Johnson also helped train up-and-coming leaders, with a primary focus on establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, developing good safety habits and preventing burnout.

“I was able to share my love for therapy and my DBT knowledge with interns and unlicensed clinicians,” Johnson said. “I derived a great deal of satisfaction helping clinicians develop a clear understanding of how to use DBT in clinical practice. I am very proud of the quality of work that these trainees developed.”

While she still sees clients through her private practice, Johnson is enjoying retirement and traveling in her RV with her husband and visiting their grandchildren.

The 2022 Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which celebrates heroes from each of the seven departments, as well as centers and institutes within our college, will be held virtually this year. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at bwilkinson@csufresno.edu.