J. Stuart Ablon, PhD, director of Think:Kids at Massachusetts General Hospital, was honored as the inaugural incumbent of the Thomas G. Stemberg Endowed Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry during a celebration on May 7, 2018, in the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation.
“We’ll be forever grateful to Tom for recognizing the incredible value that Think:Kids brings to children and families every day,” Dr. Slavin said.
This endowed chair was made possible through a generous bequest from Tom Stemberg. In addition to being a strong advocate for Mass General as a member of the President’s Council, Mr. Stemberg also served on the Think:Kids Advisory Council for more than a decade, where his expertise and strategic guidance helped to facilitate tremendous growth and success in all areas of the program’s mission. Following his untimely passing in 2015, the extraordinary resource that he designated was invested to create the Stemberg Chair, which honors his memory and recognizes his passion for helping children lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of Mass General, opened the speaking program by praising Mr. Stemberg’s creative and incisive mind, as well as his commitment to children suffering from behavioral issues. “We’ll be forever grateful to Tom for recognizing the incredible value that Think:Kids brings to children and families every day,” Dr. Slavin said. “Because of his generosity, he helped get this program off the ground.”
Impacting Tens of Thousands
Dr. Ablon completed both his predoctoral and postdoctoral training at Mass General and Harvard Medical School, where he is now an associate professor. As director of Think:Kids, he trains parents, caregivers, schools, and youth-serving organizations around the world on how to implement the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach. CPS is a highly effective compassionate intervention that is grounded in the understanding that challenging kids lack the skill, not the will, to behave well — specifically skills related to problem solving, flexibility and frustration tolerance.
Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, MD, Mass General psychiatrist-in-chief, recalled the inception of the Think:Kids program in his remarks at the celebration. He shared how even as a graduate student and junior faculty member, Dr. Ablon was at the forefront of the field: “He looked at what different psychotherapies had in common that made them therapeutic. Looking at dynamic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy was really quite cutting-edge work at the time.”
In 2004, Dr. Ablon co-pitched the idea using the Collaborative Problem Solving approach at Mass General. Dr. Rosenbaum said, “Over time, with Stuart’s leadership, this program has become a national resource and a national model, and the source of teaching and training about this method.”
Dr. Rosenbaum noted how, today, Think:Kids impacts tens of thousands nationally and internationally and serves as a consulting resource to institutions, states, and other entities like the police force in New York City schools. “Dr. Ablon’s skills as a therapist, a teacher and trainer are truly exceptional, and his work continues to change the narrative on how kids’ conditions are understood and treated,” he said. “This will certainly make the world a better place.”
Think: Kids training “actually led across all of New York City to a 58% decline in student arrests.”
Challenging Conventional Wisdom
Closing out the speaking program, Dr. Ablon underscored the far-reaching and measurable impact of Think:Kids. “The cops in the schools in New York City would make the third largest police force in the United States of America,” he said. “And we got called in because the number of student arrests that were being made by those officers, and assaults on the officers, was just astronomical. We offered a little bit of training, disrupting their views, and offered a sort of paradigm shift about what their work was and why these kids were acting out in the first place; it actually led across all of New York City to a 58% decline in student arrests.”
Dr. Ablon reminisced about his relationship with Mr. Stemberg and the profound difference his partnership made on Think:Kids. Connecting Mr. Stemberg’s visionary leadership and success in the world of business with the program’s innovative solutions, he said, “I think Tom was so fond of our approach and our work because Think:Kids is really a disruptive program working with disruptive kids. We are really about challenging the conventional wisdom.”