I must admit, I picked up this book with a certain trepidation. You don't have to be a working therapist to know that "magical moments of change" are oversold in self-help America.
As a veteran therapy client, I've had many ah-hah moments, but, alas, none of them turned into "magical moments of change." In my own experience, therapy is moving the self inch by inch toward greater stability and contentment, and it's bloody hard work. So I approached this book feeling like the Scrooge of psychotherapy. Magic, you say? Bah! Humbug!
The book's author, Lenore Terr, is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. She begins by telling about a patient of hers, Cammie, an unlikely candidate for magical change, who's been seeing her for 15 years. Although Cammie was only 29 months old when she started therapy, she'd already suffered horrendous abuse. Her 3-week-old sister had been murdered at home after being shaken and bitten repeatedly. Her father and mother were the prime suspects. Cammie, too, had been shaken, sexually abused, and bitten all over her body.
She was placed in a good foster home with Sandra and Tom Brooks. Still, after a year of "warm and loving care," she was more animal than human. The toddler acted out by "growling, spitting, sniffing sex organs, hissing, hitting."
When she first saw Terr, Cammie was "a wild child" and barely spoke, and when she did speak, she…