Treating Challenging Kids: The Collaborative Problem Solving Approach

Masters Series in Clinical Practice 

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Conference Sponsors



J. Stuart Ablon, PhD, Instructor

Behaviorally challenging kids can exhibit intense temper outbursts, oppositionality, and verbal and physical aggression. Behavioral difficulties like these strain family relationships and are the leading cause of teacher stress and burnout as well as the primary reason for departures from teaching the academic curriculum. Yet, traditional disciplinary strategies tend not to work with the youth to whom they are most applied and are often associated with significantly increasing risk for things like school dropout and juvenile justice involvement. At the same time, there has been renewed interest in the effects of chronic, overwhelming stress and trauma on children’s development, learning and behavior. Parents, educators and clinicians strive to provide a trauma-informed discipline. Yet, we often still struggle to understand the impact of trauma on brain development in a concrete and tangible way, and we all long for concrete strategies that operationalize what brain science tells us will be helpful to facilitate development arrested as a result of complex developmental trauma. Dr. Stuart Ablon, Director of Think:Kids at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, will provide an alternative conceptualization of the difficulties of these kids; namely, that their difficulties are a byproduct of lagging skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem-solving. Based on this conceptualization, he will introduce an approach to transform discipline called Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS). CPS provides replicable guideposts for adults to build helping relationships with children while fostering a relational process that develops flexibility, problem solving, and emotion regulation skills. The CPS model has helped adults teach these lagging cognitive skills while reducing the frequency and intensity of challenging behavior in diverse settings, including families, schools, group homes, and inpatient and juvenile detention facilities. In the course of this training, Dr. Ablon will make complicated neurodevelopmental concepts accessible and provide a practical evidence-based process for trauma-informed care that everyone at school can follow.

Specific learning objectives:

  1. Explain how different explanations for and interpretations of challenging behavior can lead to dramatically different approaches to intervention
  2. Discuss how chronic overwhelming stress and trauma impacts brain development
  3. Describe the limitations of reward and punishment procedures
  4. Discuss how to effectively implement a relational process to facilitate brain development and reduce the frequency and intensity of challenging behavior

Program Code: MS98

Credits: 6 CE/CME

About The Masters Series

The Master Series affords the chance to spend a complete day with leaders in our field to consider the unique perspective each speaker brings to the challenging dilemmas in both theory and practice. We hope that you will consider joining us for the entire series or choose the programs most relevant to your own practice. You can visit our other Master Series offerings here.


  • When

  • Friday, May 4, 2018
    9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
    Eastern Time

  • Where

  • William James College
    1 Wells Avenue
    Newton, Massachusetts 02459

Outlook Outlook
iCal iCal
Google Google
Yahoo! Yahoo!