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Charles Carlson

Research Interests:
Self-regulation skills for pain management
Trigeminally-mediated pain
Religious and spiritual issues in risk behaviors


Received B.S. from South Dakota State University in 1975 then served four years on active duty in the United States Army.  Completed Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Vanderbilt University in 1983 and finished clinical residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1984.   Appointed as assistant professor  and taught at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, from 1984 to  1988.   Began as assistant professor at the University of Kentucky in 1988 and currently am the Robert H. and Anna B. Culton Professor in the Department of Psychology with joint appointments in the Colleges of Dentistry and Medicine.




My research and clinical interests focus on the use of self-regulation skills for the management of pain and anxiety disorders, with a particular emphasis on pain in trigeminally-mediated regions.   I also have a program of research examining risk factors for underage alcohol use and the role of religious and spiritual issues in risky behaviors.   Our findings related to orofacial pain conditions are helping shape research and clinical paradigms in orofacial pain.  In addition, our work exploring the intersection of spirituality, religiosity, and risk-related behaviors has been a venue for theory development, as well as an opportunity to investigate preventive intervention programs for the group of at risk individuals our research program has identified.  I intend to collaborate with my graduate students on projects that will lead to better ways to enable young adults to make wise choices when it comes to alcohol use and sexual behavior.

My current projects involve examining how self-regulation skills, particularly diaphragmatic breathing strategies, influence responses to painful stimuli and risky situations.   We completed a project using virtual reality technology to mimic high risk situations for young women and to explore whether self regulation training influences their reactivity and choices in those situations.   We also have used the virtual environment to examine how self-regulation training can prevent the development of motion sickness.   Additionally, we have an ongoing project in the College of Dentistry that examines the role of diaphragmatic breathing training on responses to painful stimuli and for the management of orofacial pains.  The goal for my research is to develop self regulatory strategies that make a positive difference for persons when faced with challenging life events or circumstances.

Graduate Training

Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, Vanderbilt Univ., 1983

Selected Publications:


Schmidt, J. and Carlson, C.R. (2009).   A controlled comparison of emotional reactivity and physiological response in masticatory muscle pain patients. Journal of Orofacial Pain, 23, 230-242.

Burris, J.L., Cyders, M.A., de Leeuw, R., Smith, G.T., & Carlson, C.R. (2009). Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and chronic orofacial pain: An empirical examination of the mutual maintenance model.  Journal of Orofacial Pain, 23, 243-252.

Burris, J.L, Smith G.T., & Carlson, C.R.  (2009).  Relations among religiousness, spirituality and sexual practices.  Journal of Sex Research, 46, 282-289.

Burris, J.L., Brechting, E.H., Salsman, J., & Carlson, C.R. (2009). Factors associated with the psychological well-being and distress of university students. Journal of American College Health, 57, 536-544.

Schmidt, J.E., Carlson, C.R., Usery, A.R., & Quevedo, A.S. (2009).  The effects of tongue position on mandibular muscle activity and heart rate variability.   Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology, 108, 881-888.

Burris, J.L., Evans, D.R., & Carlson, C.R. (2010).  Psychological correlates of medical comorbidities in patients with temporomandibular disorders.  Journal of the American Dental Association, 141, 22-31.

Sauer, S.E., Burris, J.L., & Carlson, C.R.  (2010). New directions in the management of chronic pain: Self-regulation theory as a model for integrative clinical psychology practice.  Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 805-814.

Davis, C.E., Carlson, C.R., Studts, J.L., Curran, S.L., Hoyle, R.H., Sherman, J.J., & Okeson, J.P. (2010).  Use of a structural equation model for prediction of pain symptoms in patients with orofacial pain and temporomandibular disorders.  Journal of Orofacial Pain, 24, 89-100.

Brechting, E.H., Brown, T.L., Salsman, J.M., Sauer, S.E., Holeman, V.T., & Carlson, C.R. (2010).  The role of religious beliefs and behaviors in predicting underage alcohol use.  Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse, 19, 324-334

Solberg Nes, L., Carlson, C.R., Crofford, L.J., de Leeuw, R., & Segerstrom, S.C. (2010).  Self-regulatory deficits in fibromyalgia and temporomandibular disorders.   Pain, 151, 37-44.

Cyders, M.A., Burris, J.L., & Carlson, C.R. (2011). Disaggregating the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder symptom clusters and chronic orofacial pain: Implications for the prediction of health outcomes with PTSD symptom clusters.  Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 41, 1-12.

Schmidt, J.E., Hooten, M.W. & Carlson, C.R. (2011).  Utility of the NEO-FFI in multi-dimensional assessment of orofacial pain conditions.   Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 34, 170-181.

Burris, J.L., Sauer, S., & Carlson, C.R. (2011).  A test of religious  commitment and spiritual transcendence as independent predictors of underage alcohol use and alcohol-related problems.   Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. 3, 231-240.

Solberg Nes, L., Carlson, C. R., Crofford, L. J., de Leeuw, R., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2011). Individual differences and self-regulatory fatigue: Optimism, conscientiousness, and self-consciousness. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 475-480.

Carlson, C.R., & Miller, C.S. (2012).  Learning to do your very best:  6 habits for academic success.   Summer Workshop:  Lexington, KY.

Burris, J.L., Perez, C.V., Evans, D.R., & Carlson, C.R. (2013).   A preliminary study of cigarette smoking in female orofacial pain patients.  Behavioral Medicine, 39, 73-79.