Dr. Christopher Thurber enjoys creating and sharing original content for business leaders, independent educators, and youth development professionals. He is a board-certified clinical psychologist, educator, author, and father. Chris earned his BA from Harvard University in 1991 and a PhD in clinical psychology from UCLA in 1997.
A dedicated teacher from a young age, Chris has more than 30 years of experience working with camps and independent schools. He has written numerous chapters and scholarly articles on leadership, homesickness, and youth development. An award-winning contributor to Camping Magazine and Camp Business, Chris has also shared his opinions and expertise on national and international radio, television, print media, podcasts, and webinars, including the Today Show, Martha Stewart, and CNN. Watch television appearances. Listen to radio broadcasts and podcasts. Read newspaper articles.
In 1999, after a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Chris accepted a position as psychologist and instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy, a coeducational, independent school in seacoast New Hampshire. Combining his love of research, teaching, and clinical work, Chris’s work at Exeter has grown to include publications and presentations for The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) the British Boarding Schools Association (BSA) and the Australian Boarding Schools Association (ABSA).
Chris has keynoted conferences for all three associations and has delivered guest lectures on the differences between Chinese and American public education, as well as the complementary nature of schools and camps at schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Wenzhou.
Aquatics is one of Chris’s passions. He began lifeguarding and teaching swimming at 15 and assumed the position of Waterfront Director and Division Head at YMCA Camp Belknap in 1989. Chris taught sailing, water skiing, swimming, and lifeguarding at Belknap until 2015, when he became the camp’s Strategy Director. Expert Online Training features a collection of aquatics videos that Chris designed and hosts, including Active Lifeguarding, Waterfront Safety Design, and Swim Checks in Action. He regularly helps camps and schools upgrade their in-service lifeguard training, redesign their swimming and boating instruction, and evaluate the safety and performance of their pools and waterfronts. Contact Chris today if you would like to book an aquatics consultation.
In 2000, Chris and his lifelong friend, Dr. Jon Malinowski, co-authored the critically acclaimed Summer Camp Handbook, hailed by psychologist and parent, Dr. John Weisz, as “a remarkable accomplishment…the best in its field…required reading for every camper’s family…the most comprehensive and scientifically sound coverage of the camp experience available.”
The Summer Camp Handbook has since sold tens of thousands of copies, won a Parenting Press Gold Award, and been translated into Chinese. As part of his lifelong effort to enhance the camp experience for young people, Chris has been a guest on The Today Show, Martha Stewart, CNN, Fox, CBS Morning News, and NPR. Shop here for The Summer Camp Handbook and other books for which Chris has written chapters.
In 2005, Chris published the first empirical study of homesickness prevention in the Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. The results suggested that a unique combination of positive expectations, practice time away from home, and essential coping skills reduced homesickness intensity in first-year campers by 50%, on average. Today, an updated, live-streaming version of this powerful preparatory video is available for camp-wide subscriptions here. Individual families may also purchase a live-streaming version.
Chris is the Founder and CEO of CampSpirit, LLC, which provides consultation and training to professional educators and youth leaders around the world. As he traveled across five continents to present in-person staff training workshops, Chris realized that no directors of summer youth programs had enough time with their employees to provide all the necessary training prior to opening day. The increased complexity of health regulations and accreditation standards, as well as heightened awareness of child abuse and risk management, made training demands higher than ever, especially for seasonal employees and volunteers. But with a fixed period of time during which to conduct on-site training, an innovative educational solution was imperative.
In 2007, Chris teamed up with tech visionary, Evan Heltay, to co-found ExpertOnlineTraining.com, a learning management system and content library specially designed for youth leaders. EOT quickly became the Internet’s most popular and respected educational resource for staff at camps, parks & recs, summer schools, and after-school programs. With an unusually talented faculty of nearly 30 doctors, lawyers, psychologists, teachers, and directors, EOT now hosts more than 130 video training modules, each with its own quiz and handout. Since its inception, EOT has trained more than 305,000 staff at youth programs in 45 countries, a reach that represents more than 35 million additional hours of training. Learn more about Expert Online Training here
Chris and his wife, Simonida, an analytical chemist and loving mother, live in Exeter, New Hampshire with their sons Danilo (born 2002) and Sava (born 2004). Both boys play violin with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra’s premier ensemble, BYS. For a listing of upcoming performances, click here. To enjoy recordings of solo performances, click here.