Beloved family member, friend and mentor to countless people near and far, breathed her last in her own bed on September 21, 2021 at the age of 94. She was a child and adolescent therapist known for her method of integrating the theory and practice of Gestalt therapy. with play therapy.
Violet was born on April 18, 1927 in Lowell, MA to a Russian Jewish immigrant family. She grew up in Cambridge, MA, with her parents Joseph and Mollie Solomon and her two older brothers, Sydney and Arthur. Violet then lived in Miami; New York City; Denver; Albania; and Long Beach, Hermosa Beach and Santa Barbara, California. After 21 years in Santa Barbara, she moved to Los Angeles to live near her retired son and daughter-in-law. She was married for 26 years to Harold Oaklander, a registered social worker and Gestalt therapist (deceased). Together they had three children: Mha Atma S. Khalsa (Arthur), Michael (deceased) and Sara. After she and Harold divorced she never remarried, but for most of the last 19 years of her life she was accompanied by her beloved kitten Maydeleh. After Maydeleh’s death in early 2021, Violet went on to adopt Shayna, a loving middle-aged cat who stayed with her until the end.
Violet Oaklander is the author of the books Windows to Our Children: A Gestalt Therapy Approach to Children and Adolescents (now published in 16 languages) and Hidden Treasure: A Map to the Child’s Inner Self (now published in 8 languages) as well as several articles. journals, book chapters and audio and video recordings on psychotherapeutic work with children. She got a doctorate. in Clinical Psychology, Master of Arts in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling, Master of Science in Special Education with Children with Emotional Disorders and was a Certified Gestalt Therapist.
Violet’s unique approach to working with children, which combines the theory, philosophy and practice of Gestalt Therapy with a variety of expression techniques, has gained international recognition. She has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Play Therapy, USA, and has received numerous other awards for her contribution to the field of mental health. In February 2012, Oaklander was honored and awarded the Edna Reiss-Sophie Greenberg Chair at the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center in Los Angeles.
For 27 years, Violet led a highly successful two-week training program in California in which participants from all over the world participated. In addition, she was a regular instructor for many years in the campus extension programs of the University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Diego, and the Pacifica Graduate Institute.
While Violet grew up in a warm and loving family, her life and work were also shaped by several major physical and emotional traumas. At the age of five, she suffered a burn to much of her torso, arms and legs in a domestic accident. She has said in interviews that the pain and trauma she endured in the hospital for months while being treated for the burn was the spark that sparked her interest in working with children. Of this childhood injury, Violet said, “This could be the start of why I’m doing this job… Everything I’ve ever worked on, especially with my training in Gestalt therapy… diphtheria, which caused a secondary infection leading to progressive lifelong hearing loss. At 17, her beloved brother Arthur was killed in Germany just months before the end of World War II. And her son Michael was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 13, resulting in an 18-month decline in which she spent most of her time caring for him before he died. Just before the tragedy of Michael’s illness, Violet’s father died suddenly of a heart attack, and just before Michael’s death, his mother was killed by an unlicensed teenager.
These tragic episodes contributed to Violet’s incredible ability to empathize and be present for children and teens, which powerfully stimulated her work to create a method of therapy and healing that would later spread. in the whole world. Additionally, Violet’s lifelong dedication as a Jewish atheist and skeptic of anything supernatural has been called into question by a series of experiences spanning many years linked to her deceased parents, his brother Arthur and his son Michael who challenged these beliefs. These included communication via a medium with deceased loved ones that conveyed information that no one in the world was aware of except Violet herself, and even predictions of future events that happened later.
Violet’s first book, Windows to Our Children, has become a valuable resource for child psychotherapists and other mental health professionals around the world, and has touched and transformed the lives of countless children and adolescents. Her legacy is now supported and promoted by the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation, a nonprofit established to advance her work. The Foundation was founded in 2003 by around 20 Violet’s family members and longtime colleagues who have created a myriad of ways to continue Violet’s work.
Violet is survived by her son Mha Atma S. Khalsa and daughter-in-law Martha Oaklander of Los Angeles, CA ;, daughter Sara Oaklander and son-in-law Monte Allen of Somerville, MA; her grandchildren and great grandchildren Sat Sarbat Khalsa; Siri Oaklander, his wife Sneja and their daughter Emma; Madeline Oaklander; and Michael Allen, his wife Caroline and their baby boy due in February; as well as her dear first cousin / sister Ruth Block of Santa Monica, California. She is also survived by her beloved nephews and their families and many dear cousins, as well as countless devoted and loving friends and colleagues, near and far; her dedicated caregiver Dina Jarikova; and
her cat Shayna.
A celebration of Violet’s life will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation at www.vsof.org or by sending a check to PO Box 30607, Santa Barbara, CA 93130