Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Table of Contents:

Psychotherapy and Psychiatry

“A Precipitate”

In chemistry, mixing two solutions, depending on what they are, will generate a “precipitate”—a formation of solids that sink to the bottom of the test tube. It’s from a time when only physicians who know such words, who have taken chem-istry, were allowed to become psychoanalysts. In the 1960s first one psychoanalytic institute, then another, […]


This is the tendency to treat things as if they were a disease when instead they should be better imagined as something else, such as a common problem in ordinary life. A friend suggested that a number of conditions are “medicalized”—implying that they should not be. This is really interesting from multiple viewpoints. When is […]

“Too Sensitive” ??

So let’s say that 2.3% of people, or maybe it’s 8.4%?, are “too sensitive.” No big deal, there are those who are too nearsighted, or too all sorts of qualities. Evolution tries out all variations and sees what’s most adaptive. Up to now, we haven’t been able to use those qualities 99% of the time […]


This has become a bit of a catch-word: It catches you. It says, “This was really painful for the client.” But I confess that I rather wince with the term, as if all psychopathology was due to trauma and no one’s responsible for anything. I’m vulnerable in speaking up because of course some people are […]

“Truth” in Psychotherapy

The idea that one theory for mind is true and the others less so is based on an idea that truth is one, whereas I think it likely that what’s true for one “level” may not be true for other levels or categories. What works for    elementary arithmetic may not be true for psychology. It’s […]

21st Century Neuroses

On this Fathers’ Day I am proud of my son and son-in-law, and their wives, as parents. I find that they don’t impose a broad range of foolish expectations and injunctions that were common two generations earlier (the mid 20th century). I am hopeful that perhaps even a majority of kids will not be afflicted […]

A Critique of the “War on Drugs”

Book Review: Pain control and drug policy : a time for change, by Guy B. Faguet, M.D. Santa Barbara CA: Praeger / ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2010.     This excellent book offers a careful, scholarly analysis on the war on drugs—taking a stance that challenges the hysteria associated with this policy. I especially resonated with something I […]

About Psychotherapy Research

There are (at least) two variables involved in psychotherapy research: One is diagnosis, the other is ego strength. High ego strength allows people to exhibit a symptom, but also to recover from it. With low ego strength, all the other coping mechanisms are shaky or non-functional. People are deeply handicapped. Although it’s not a diagnosis […]

Action Explorations

This is my term for a class of activities that used to be lumped with drama, psychodrama, applied drama—e.g., my anthology on Interactive & Improvisational Drama. I’ve changed my mind, though—I think it’s better to call this category “action explorations”—or, as an alternative, “exploratory enactments.” I am re-writing my two major books on psychodrama, updating […]

Action Explorations or Psychodrama as Research

Although “research” tends to be associated with a more restrictive process—attempting to control many variables in order to see if varying one makes a difference—this approach applies more to only certain kinds of research—kinds that tend to be associated with things, material objects, chemistry, physics, biology. But if we recognize the word is more a […]

Action in Education, Psychotherapy, and Life

The emphasis here is on physical enactment, direct encounter, as a way of being more involved than just talking about a topic. Admittedly, talking about is better than stifling, avoiding talking, avoiding being conscious at all. But action extends the process, makes it more holistic. One feels oneself more present and involved. Dr. Jacob L. […]

Afterlife Letter from Freud to Jung

The following is a fantasized letter from Sigmund Freud to Carl Jung about the nature of a more holistic psychology: Dear Carl,         Now that I’m dead to the living, I’ve discovered that as part of my purgatory, my purification process, on this post-death plane I’m encouraged to do a life review. I have come […]

All Roads Lead to Illusion

As I reflect on the series of lectures on illusions that I gave last month for Senior University Georgetown, it became increasingly clear that a variety of phenomena that have not been vividly recognized as being similar—i.e., illusory—should be so thought of:   – the defense mechanisms of the psychoanalysts, and some of the other […]

Ambiguities in Psychiatric Diagnosis

In the May 26, 2009 issue (page A-13) of the Los Angeles Times, there’s an article about new trends in psychiatric diagnosis by Shari Roan, reporting from the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco. Regarding the creation of a diagnostic manual, there have been four editions, and further minor revisions: The profession of […]

Analysis Interminable

So my wife and I are pretty mentally healthy, but we are introspective, so we notice traces of neurosis, such as introjection of dissatisfied early attachment figures—also known as “hungry ghosts”—those for whom who we were was never enough—and we joked about it. I strongly suspect that 30 years of psychoanalysis would not suffice. “Only […]

Ask the Psychiatrist

People expect experts to know answers. But then they ask questions that only open the door, and I as the expert think, “Well, it could be due to any number of things.” For example, I was asked about a mother with “a flying phobia. I make a differential diagnosis: (1) The mom is how far […]

Being Silly as Part of Health

“And when was the last time you were silly?” This might well be on the standard list of questions asked by one’s doctor. “If it’s been over a week, it’s not okay.” Wow! I mean, what if this is right? What if this becomes part of the medical “review of systems” that every doctor must […]

Beyond Narcissism: Ideal Child Development

This mini-essay is aimed at broadening our sense of what the core motivations are for children (and adults). The Freudian view has been excessively reductionistic, and even more contemporary efforts to expand the set of what are considered to be core motivations don’t go far enough. The concept of “primary narcissism” in particular is a […]

Beyond Psychiatric “Sickness”

A friend wrote and said, “Recently there was a finding that male holocaust survivors lived longer than male Jews who left Europe before WW II. A sociologist speculated that the holocaust survivors became more adept at survival under extreme stress and called it “post traumatic growth.” Note that it was not labeled as a disorder. […]

Bringing Forth Others

It occurred to me that the art of bringing forth others’ creativity and fullness has become part of the role definition of many types of people-helpers—including parents, managers, teachers, spiritual directors and counselors of every type, personal coaches, etc. In the past, the job was simpler: For parents, get kids raised, fed, launched. For most […]

Can Psychology Be “Researched”?

In considering what types of psychotherapy work, I become aware of the sheer multiplicity of variables. I suspect this problem is perhaps insurmountable, because what we’re talking about isn’t a machine, as in what kind of gasoline gets the best mileage, or energy, or whatever can be measured. Human behavior cannot be measured! Well, it […]

Challenging Psychiatry

I have been re-thinking my profession in preparation for giving a talk on the changes it has gone through over the last fifty to a hundred years. The title is “We Don’t Do That Anymore,” but alas, we do, at least some things that maybe we shouldn’t. I’ll post it on my website when I’ve […]

Change the World!

I confess that I think that if people could use just a few techniques developed originally in psychodrama, it would indeed change the world! Let’s not argue yet; consider first some of the following: Admit Ambivalence People will not only seem more authentic to others, but will be able to work with mixed feelings or […]

Changes in “Therapy”

Moreno’s vision was for "all the world;" but psychotherapy has been becoming far, far more expensive—at least in the USA—pricing itself out of the market of anyone not diagnos-ably "sick" and helped by payments from health insurance. Happily, more de-facto “pseudo-therapists” in the guise of  “coaches” are cropping up with little quality control over qualifications. […]

Chauvinism and Preference

What if part of the problem in male “chauvinism” is that many—perhaps most–people lack a clear awareness that people have different preferences—even women!—and this category must be recognized and dealt with consciously ! Many men a century ago were devoted to their wives, loved them deeply. It just never occurred to them that their dear […]