Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Adam Blatner, 1937-2021

Originally posted on October 2, 2021

Adam Blatner, M.D., “floated to the finish” (in his own words) in October. Inspired as a child by his primary physician’s kindness, Dr. Blatner declared his intention to become a doctor even before elementary school, saying “I want to help other little children, like you do.” Graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was awarded Phi Beta Kappa in his Junior year, he continued his education at San Francisco University Medical School, receiving his M.D. and entering psychiatric residency at Stanford University School of Medicine. Following his residency, Dr. Blatner joined the United States Air Force, served as head of the family clinical treatment facility at Lakenheath Air Force Base, and achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel. He was double board certified in adult and child/adolescent psychiatry and was a Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Blatner’s sub-specialty interest led to his certification as a Trainer Educator of Psychodrama. He is the author of the primary textbook in that field, Acting-In, which has been translated into every major language. A prolific writer, he authored several other books, chapters in textbooks, and many articles.

He was an active proponent of psychological literacy, critical thinking, and mental flexibility. As a clinician, he helped patients discover areas of health and joy in their lives. Dr. Blatner wrote and taught about the primary values of imagination, intuition, playfulness, improvisation, physical vitality, expressiveness, and spiritual inspiration as ways to foster a higher level of social and emotional skills in the human population.

Teaching has been a constant focus of Dr. Blatner’s professional and avocational endeavors. He was an Associate Professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and Texas A&M Medical School. In retirement, he and several other teachers started a Senior Learning for fun program. A passionate reader and polymath from his early childhood, Dr. Blatner borrowed from local lending libraries and purchased thousands of books—reading them all! One of his greatest joys with the Senior Learning program was the chance to teach classes on a wide variety of subjects from Shakespeare, world writing systems, micro-biology, process philosophy, history of medicine, history of comic books, etc.

He was an outstanding dancer, embracing international folk and ballroom dance as a teenager, adding square and round dancing, and advanced his skill in those areas into his later life. During retirement, he sang in a choral group and participated in community theatre productions. Always a lover of the tradition of campfire song fests, he compiled an extensive songbook, and actively held small and larger group sing-a-longs wherever he lived.

After Dr. Blatner — a lifelong clinician, academic, theorist, internationally respected author and educator — learned that he was experiencing symptoms of dementia, he declared his intention to calmly “float to the finish.” Which he did, surrounded by his devoted family. He is survived by his wife of almost 50 years, Allee; ex-wife, Barbara; son David and wife Debbie, their sons Gabriel and Daniel; daughter Alisa and husband Paul, their daughters Camille and Zoe; brother Irwin, two beloved nieces, and numerous cousins. His uplifting smile and joie de vivre will be deeply missed by his family, colleagues, and friends. He often insisted that his greatest accomplishment was: “I got to help.”

The family thanks SLO Hospice and the “angels on earth” from Dignity Health Hospice who attended his final decline. Neptune Society was especially helpful when we needed them most. In lieu of flowers please consider donating to your local Library. The family held a private service to honor Adam’s life.

15 Responses to “Adam Blatner, 1937-2021”

  • Marlo Archer says:

    Thank you to Adam, and the several psychodramatists who have gone before you, for not only teaching me how to live, but also how to transition back to the First Universe. Should I find a similar challenge, I, too, hope to “float to the finish” as he did. I spoke to him many times during the float and it was delightful. Although I will miss his physical presence, he will remain forever a part of my psyche.

  • Thank you Adam for the genuine curiosity you had in knowing what was happening with psychodrama in India, and for your regular emails connecing me to psychodrama as I know it today. Indian institute of Psychodrama will forever be grateful to you for setting us off on our course. We are floating smoothly, thanks to you.

  • Marco Greco says:

    Dear, dearest Adam.

    Psychodrama expert in all human organizations; research, dissemination and memory…

    Thank you for everything and have a nice trip

    Marco Greco
    P.S. A hug to your family. Expecially to your precious wife.

  • Dear Adam,

    We met for the first time in the United States years ago at the New York ASGPP congress. For more than 20 years, you have strengthened our relations with the world and have been an important supporter of Istanbul Psychodrama Institute, and you have made numerous contributions to psychodrama field. As Shutzenberger said, you always wrote and enriched the psychodrama field. We send you with our endless love.

    You are in our hearts.

  • I miss not met you personally. By email you acoompanied me since the start in my developing of psychodrama, Yow vere alwaiss there to answer my questions, to discuss some sensible topics. You were alwaiss there also whit me in your books and after whit my students that continue growing whit your work. Thank you Adam.

  • wilma scategni says:

    Dear Jacob and dear all… It was only this morning, while we were connected in Social Dreaming with Maurizio, that I have had the sad news that our beloved friend and collegue Adam Blatner was “floating away”, as he said…with a soft and sweet image….About one or two years ago, when he announced that he will conclude his really great and important work of collecting our artcles… books and so on… I was feel a deep emotion and sadness….because I felt he was preparing himself “to live our stage”. Unfortunately I have not had any opportunity to met him personally… only I knew his letters to all of us and I realized how important it was the work he was doing for our community ….
    And many times I thought and I felt to write him…only to be in contact….but the time…. was quickly flying away….When Marcia, organized the wanderful “dinosaurus party”, a short time after the starting of the pandemia…. unfortunately I have not had the possibility to partecipate…. For sovrapposition in Agenda… And my feeling was that now I’ll have (through zoom) the possibility to meet again my IAGP and FEPTO friends living far from Italy….. but Adam… was fading away… and I was sad for this, also if I was hoping doenst’ happen…
    Thanks to Magdalene… because she was sharing with us her memories regarding Adam’s partecipation and support for Psychodrama Development in India … And for remembering Dag too, an other wanderful psychodramatist who “left our stage” many years ago …
    Thanks also to Anastasja for the wanderful poetry…
    A group of people become a deep community of souls, when the members can share the mourning for the disappearance of one of their well known beloved members ….everywhere in the world…
    And this morning Judith tell us a dream of world globe with lights of connections everywhere……
    I apogize with Judith for revealing her dream and mentioned her whithout…asking before to her if she agree… but it was such a wanderfull… dream… and my feeling is that Judith was the voice expressing the inconscius of our group… Water….water…water everywhere in our social dreaming this morning…and we can bright a candle on our window this night…
    I feel confused by the emotion and I dont’ remember If I have had the sad new before or later Judith’s telling… it’s a really deep emotion that it’s important for me to share with you all…
    Thanks to all to be here and to give me this possibility …..…
    A warm hug Wilma 05102021

  • Dear Allee, I’ve just learned of Adam’s death and amongst my sadness is such gratitude to him for his amazing spirit, kindness, genius, and artistry. Adam was the best clinical supervisors I ever had. He would listen carefully to my case presentation and after abt 30 mins or more he’d smile saying, “ OK, I think I’m warming up to this case.” Then he would proceed to collaborate with me in the most collegial manner. It was an honor to be in his clinical orbit for a few years at the Brown Schools. As an art therapist he loved sharing his art with me and was always ready to discuss clients’ art. And of course there were the puppets and Uncle Binkle. Adam was one of the most alive people I’ve ever known. And anytime your name came into the conversation he seemed to find a beautiful way to say how amazing you are and /or how much he adored you. Now that’s abundant love. I love that Adam floated the Flow in his way on his terms. The world is a dimmer place without his voice, but I think I’ll find a star for him in the night sky and imagine Uncle Binkle sending us fairy dust, and reminding us to love one another. Best love, Molly Guzzino

  • Barbara (B-Ann) Hill says:

    Dear Adam –
    You remember, we met in 1957 at the first dance I went to as a freshman at Cal. You were a wonderful dancer and an amazing guy. I knew you as Howie, and I was B-Ann. As well as being a great dancer, you were brilliant, played the guitar and drew wonderful cartoons (I still have some of them). We sat together in a physics lecture class. While I was busy taking notes, you were busy drawing cartoons for the Pelican campus magazine. I worked hard to get a B and you got your usual A. We became close friends, dancing pals and explored religion, philosophy, ethics, relationships and Winnie the Pooh. I still remember discussions with you and your friend, Peter, about how we were replacing the rules of religion with our own ethical and moral rules and how much more power they have coming from within. I went to your graduation from Berkeley with your girlfriend, Barbara, and your mother and was so proud to watch my friend who was Phi Beta Kappa as a junior graduate summa cum laude from Berkeley. You touched my heart and soul like no one else in my life. You weren’t my boyfriend; you were my very special friend. I remember one time when we were walking across campus – you picked a small flower from the grass, studied it, handed it to me and asked if I had ever truly looked at such a beautiful thing. That was sixty-four years ago, and I remember it still. Adam, you and I had on-going e-mail correspondence in our old age for which I am forever grateful. You were a cherished friend who still has an impact on my life. Thank you.

    • pat potts says:

      Your comment brought tears to my eyes. Adam was a great dancer but more importantly a fun one. I didn’t go in for couple dances much because I was not that good a dancer but Adam never made me feel that way.

  • pat potts says:

    I am a friend of Adam’s from folk dancing in Austin. He was a kind and wonderful man and was missed terribly when he left Austin. I knew Allie as well although not as well. My condolences to her and all his family and friends.

  • Phil and Mary Olson says:

    Dear Allee and family- Mary and I just found out about Adam’s death. We both remember him as such an enthusiastic neighbor, teacher, conversationalist and friend. I remember most, his upbeat positive spirit! We hope and pray that you and the family will experience comfort and grace in the midst of your grieving!

    With Thanks to God for Adam and our memories of Him-

    Phil and Mary

  • Hello, Allee and family. I have avoided learning about Adam’s departure…a while back he sent me his “penultimate” email and indicated that he thought he had it in him to send another one at some point, but it never came. So tonight I finally worked up the nerve to see what was going on, thinking of him and his holiday mandalas. I’m so sorry he floated away from you, but he and his fairies in multiple dimensions must be with you somehow.

    Adam was the one and only psychiatrist who ever asked me–an art therapist–what he could do to help. That was back in 1991 at the UofL’s child guidance center, where I interned for a semester. Adam was also a guest lecturer in at least one of my classes at the UofL. Years later, we both popped up in Austin’s folk dance scene. Imagine the odds! He and I became reacquainted and had many, many lunches and conversations about life, the universe, mysteries, mischief, and the book I’ve been carrying in my head for years. It’s still there, but at least it’s under contract. He told me to be encouraged, and that meant so much to me. It was wonderful to connect with a genuine healer who recognized my value and the value of my ideas, as many mental health professionals have dismissed me as “just an art therapist”. Once we went together to an open house/continuing ed presentation at a new psych hospital in the Austin area, and as we left he told me he was embarrassed to ever have worked in that kind of facility. He really knew what healing was all about.

    Anyhow, I hope you are mysteriously visited by a mandala or two this holiday season. No one will ever replace Adam, but they don’t need to; he lives on in everyone he touched. And he touched many.

  • Daniel Jones says:

    I had the great honor of meeting Adam at the psychodrama conference in San Fran in the 2000 aughts. At that same conference I met his daughter. As a dad with daughters, I felt very strongly that bond, and loved seeing it with an adult father and daughter, a vision of a future for me. We corresponded every once in a while over email. Although I am sure that is not unique, it did feel very special. He was very interested in my work. I am sad to read of this, and more so these months later. As I prepare for certification, I have come back to Acting In, which was a foundational text. It is with greater sense of purpose now that I look forward to progressing through these certification processes. We have lost a man who gave us words that now we must use our own voice to speak and act into existence.

  • Robert Lowe says:

    Oh, Adam. I knew you were going, though here it is nearly half a year later as I dicover that you are gone from this plane of wonder.
    How empty my very full life would have been had we not met through our books, via email,, and finally in person with The Applied Improvisation Network.
    To have met David through his books, and the gift of my having been included in your final anthology has also been a wonderment in my life.
    Your energy, your laughter, your creativity, and your beauty will float around this tiny little globe of ours for a very long time.
    Thank you for being my friend.

  • I knew Adam when he was a resident at Stanford. I was in his psychodrama group and in gradate schoo at a different university. I played the alter egos, since I was in theater. I learned soooo much from his gentle wonderful ways of leading a group. I eventually. many years later, trained physicians in Boston and around the country and gave workshops on handling challenging patients and communicating to patients with life threatening illness. I used many of the psychodramatic techniques that I learned from him. We kept in touch over the years. What a wonderful gentle soul… I was blessed to know him.

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