'The Language of Distress: Understanding a Child’s Behavior' A. F. Brafman. Book review by Dr. Paul C. Holinger

This small book is wonderful for parents and professionals. Dr. Brafman presents several short case vignettes of children under 10 years old with various problems: constipation, encopresis, phobias, biting, headaches, breath-holding, vomiting, night fears, and so on.
His general approach is “to discover the meaning of the child’s symptoms” (p. xiv; emphasis in original) and assist the parents in being empathic with and understanding of the child’s fears. He uses words, drawings, and other verbal and non-verbal techniques to help the children and parents express their feelings.
Dr. Brafman closes the book with a note from one of the parents: “I’m delighted the problem is behind us and that we got some insight into his difficulties, rather than just imposing socially acceptable behavior over his worries” (p. 161). Brafman notes the parents were often surprised and puzzled by how the help was achieved: “They had never expected their child to have such a capacity to express their thoughts and feelings, their ‘hidden’ anxieties…” (p. 161).