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Magical Moments of Change: How Psychotherapy Turns Kids Around 

Wednesday, Nov 21 2007

By Lenore Terr, M.D.

W.W. Norton, $27.95

Magical Moments of Change is possibly the cheesiest title ever applied to a deeply fascinating book on the human psyche and the possibilities of healing. Lenore Terr, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco, has collected brief essays on 48 turning points (or "magical moments," as she unfortunately insists on calling them) experienced by her child-therapist colleagues around the country — instances in which doctors have breakthroughs with seriously confused kids. Some of these turning points are completely, goofily inadvertent, such as when a hapless therapist finally connects with an angry punk rocker. One day the kid shows up for his session with egg-white in his Mohawk, which nearly kills the highly allergic therapist. The episode winds up bringing doctor and patient closer together. Some watershed moments demonstrate a wealth of skill and knowledge about kids' pain, such as when the doctor at a Southern mental hospital realizes the facility's resident bully is neither retarded nor psychotic, but just pretending. The doctor keeps the startled boy's secret for months, while discussing it with him in private. Terr folds these mini-case histories into a longer narrative about her many turning points with "Cammie," a horrifically traumatized girl Terr treated monthly from age two to 18. The girl arrives in her office a "wild child," barely able to speak or walk like a human being. Terr notes a handful of her "magical moments" as she helps coax Cammie from feral to civilized. Magical Moments is intended to help child psychologists create these turning points in their own practices. But Terr's writing avoids medical jargon and pomposity, relating and examining the heartbreaking and moving little triumphs in a warm, level-headed, and engaging tone. This book will broaden the mind of the professional and armchair shrink alike, as well as anyone who has or loves children.

About The Author

Frances Reade


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