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In Memoriam: Sidney J. Blatt, PhD

May 14, 2014

Emeritus Professor Sidney J. Blatt, 85, died at his home on Sunday, May 11, 2014. Dr. Blatt came to Yale in 1960 as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. He joined the Department of Psychiatry in 1963 and served as professor of psychiatry and of psychology, and chief of the Psychology Section of the Department of Psychiatry for almost 50 years. Dr. Blatt received his PhD from the University of Chicago, and completed postdoctoral psychology training at the Michael Reese Hospital and psychoanalytic training at the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis.

In a career spanning more than 50 years Dr. Blatt distinguished himself as an analytic clinician, an empirical researcher, a personality theorist, and a beloved teacher and mentor. Author or coauthor of more than 220 published articles and approximately 17 books, he conducted extensive research on personality development, psychological assessment, psychopathology, and psychotherapeutic outcomes. His wide-ranging areas of scholarship and expertise included the Rorschach inkblot test, mental representation, internalization, and an empirically supported theory of normal and pathological development involving two interdependent personality styles—one related to self-definition and one to relatedness. Along with colleagues and students, he developed measures widely used in research and clinical settings to assess styles of depression, self- and object-representations, and boundary disturbances in thought disorders. A wide-ranging intellect, he also authored a book on developmental cognitive theory and art history.

Dr. Blatt was the recipient of numerous awards including the Sigmund Freud Scholar at Hebrew University, the Bruno Klopfer and Marguerite Hertz Awards for Distinguished Accomplishments in Personality Assessment, Distinguished Scientific Awards of Divisions 12 and 39 of the American Psychological Association, the Hans Strupp and the Otto Weininger Awards for Distinguished Contributions to Psychoanalysis, and the Mary S. Sigourney Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychoanalytic Theory and Research.

Dr. Blatt served as a visiting fellow or professor at Austen Riggs Center, Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic, Tavistock Centre, University College London, The Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Menninger Foundation, Catholic University of Leuven, George Washington University, Bar Ilan University, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he served simultaneously as the Sigmund Freud Professor, the Director of the Sigmund Freud Center for Psychoanalytic Study and Research, the Ayala and Sam Zacks Professor of Art History, and a Senior Fulbright Research Fellow.

A beloved mentor to many generations of Yale Psychology graduate students, and pre- and post-doctoral psychology fellows in the Psychiatry Department, Dr. Blatt supervised or advised more than 40 doctoral dissertations at Yale and other universities. Many of his students have gone on to distinguished research careers. In 2002, former students organized a Festschrift in his honor at the Division 39 meetings of the American Psychological Association, which resulted in a 2005 volume, Relatedness, Self-definition, and Mental Representation: Essays in Honor of Sidney J. Blatt.

As Robert Wallerstein writes in his review of Blatt’s 2008 book, Polarities of Experience: Relatedness and Self-Definition in Personality Development, Psychopathology, and the Therapeutic Process, “our field owes much to Sidney Blatt’s ... productive lifetime of almost unmatched threefold integration of clinical experience, theoretical conceptualization, and systematic empirical research.”

He was born in Philadelphia on October 15, 1928, a son of the late Harry and Fanny Blatt. He is survived by his wife, Ethel (Shames) Blatt; his three children, Susan (Charles Goetsch) Schwab Goetsch of Branford, Conn., David (Lisa) Blatt of Washington, D.C., and Judi (John) Casey of Potomac, Md.; and nine grandchildren: Lesley Schwab (Geoff Smith), Ruthie Schwab, William Casey (Christian Casey), Sarah Casey, Madeline Casey, Thomas Casey, Michael Casey, Daniel Blatt, and Rachel Blatt.

Funeral services will be held at Congregation B’nai Jacob, 75 Rimmon Rd., Woodbridge, Conn., on Thursday May 15, 2014 at 1 p.m., followed by interment at B’nai Jacob Memorial Park, on Wintergreen Avenue in New Haven.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Yale Department of Psychiatry (Psychology Section), P.O. Box 7611, New Haven, CT 06519-0611.

This text was prepared by Dr. Kay Long in consultation with Dr. Blatt's family.

Submitted by Shane Seger on May 14, 2014