Shopping Therapy

About Our Services:

Individual and Group Coaching

Dr. Benson and her associates are available for individual and group coaching, both in-person, in Manhattan, for overshoppers who live in the New York metropolitan area, and by phone, for overshoppers who live outside of the New York metropolitan area.

The work begins with a diagnostic assessment, a personal history questionnaire, a Shopping Patterns Questionnaire,and two valid and reliable compulsive buying rating scales, to learn whether the problem is serious enough to warrant professional help. If so, the treatment goal is to break the cycle that leads to compulsive buying and to teach skills, tools, and strategies to help you eliminate your compulsive buying behavior.

The comprehensive program in Dr. Benson’s book, To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop is used in both individual and group coaching. The individual work has the advantage of being able to create a unique program tailored to each individual’s needs. The group program has the advantage of talking and sharing with others who are having the same challenges.

If you are concerned about your buying behavior and wish to contact Dr. Benson, please e-mail her at
or call 917-885-6887.

12-Week Stopping Overshopping Telecoaching Group

The 12-week Stopping Overshopping Telecoaching Group Coaching focuses on changing problematic buying behavior, and employs a wide array of techniques to achieve this goal. Group members discover triggers, cues, and consequences of their overbuying, learn specific tools, strategies, and techniques to break the cycle of overspending, gain control, and develop mindfulness and increased capacity to use their “wise mind” in making decisions.

Each group member receives a copy of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop and the companion Shopping Journals. One of the Journals is for more narrative writing and the other is for on the spot writing and reference. Over the course of the twelve weeks, you track your spending and the relative necessity of each expenditure. You also be writing a money and shopping memoir and constructing a money dialog to help you better understand the roots of the problem and the way those roots manifest themselves in your current behavior.

An important part of the process is formulating specific, achievable, and measurable weekly goals. You also find and use a buddy, someone from outside of the group whom you select to be an advocate for you as you work toward changing your buying behavior. Didactic material related to compulsive buying, paper and pencil exercises, and experiential exercises are part of each group session. We address the role of culture, and develop media literacy. Each group member learns how to identify and restructure dysfunctional thoughts, manage stress, and resolve conflict assertively. and how to deal with the inevitable lapses and relapses that are a part of recovery.

For more details about the Stopping Overshopping group, click here.
For a schedule of Dr. Benson’s speaking engagements, click here.
For related resources, click here.

Treatment Overview:

Compulsive shopping is a disorder that our culture has largely seen fit to smile upon. Feelings of emptiness, low self-esteem, insecurity,boredom, lonliness − or the pursuit of ideal image–can cause people to buy compulsively. But managing these feelings and mood states by buying compulsively can have extremely serious consequences and significantly erode quality of life.

As with most other addictive, impulse control, or compulsive disorders, there is a wide range of effective treatment options: drug treatment, individual, group, and couples therapy, counseling for compulsive buying, Debtors Anonymous, and Simplicity Circles can all be effective. The choice of what form or forms of treatment to use with a particular person is a complex decision that goes well beyond the scope of this overview. For further information about making treatment decisions, consult my own writings, the For Therapists page of this website, as well as the bibliographic references at the end of each chapter in I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self.

Psychotropic medications, including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and opiod antagonists have been used to treat compulsive buying, with varying effectiveness. For further details, see McElroy and Goldsmith-Chapter 10 of I Shop, Therefore I Am − and my own treatment chapter in Addiction: A Practical Handbook.

Group therapy for compulsive buyers has been reported since the late 1980s. At least five different forms of group therapy have been utilized with this population. My own group treatment model is an amalgam of three things: useful techniques from existing models; didactic and experiential material used in group treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder; and material I’ve found effective in my clinical practice.

There are chapters about two of the existing group therapy models in my book, and I describe all five in detail in my treatment chapter.

Couples therapy for compulsive buying is an extremely important treatment modality, because couples act as a financial unit and generally blend income as well as spending. Money issues are an intrinsic part of marriage and are often a source of intense and pervasive friction that can seep into other aspects of the relationship. Couples therapy is indicated when the compulsive spending problem can’t be dealt with adequately on an individual basis. Olivia Mellan, the country’s foremost expert in this area, discusses the treatment in Chapter 15, “Overcoming Overspending in Couples”, of I Shop, Therefore I Am.

Counseling for compulsive buying targets the specific problem and creates an action plan to stop the behavior. Targeted counseling for this problem alters the negative actions of compulsive buying and concurrently works toward healing the underlying emotions, although less emphasis is placed on exploring the emotional significance of compulsive buying than in traditional individual psychotherapy. The major premise of counseling for compulsive buying is the idea that insight alone will not stop the behavior. All stages in the compulsive buying cycle must be identified: the triggers, the feelings, the dysfunctional thoughts, the behaviors, the consequences of the behavior, as well as the meaning of the compulsive buying. Creating and using a spending plan is a cornerstone of compulsive buying counseling. More information about compulsive buying counseling can be found in Karen McCall’s chapter “Financial Recovery Counseling”, as well as in my treatment chapter in I Shop, Therefore I Am.

Debtors Anonymous (D.A.) can be a powerful tool in recovery from compulsive buying, especially for compulsive buyers who have problems with debt. D.A. sees debting as a disease similar to alcoholism that can be cured with solvency, which means abstinence from any new debt. Since individuals are trying to control their lives with addictive debting, D.A. offers a regimented program of surrender and recovery, a program with a spiritual emphasis. Individual debtors work through the steps of the program with a sponsor, a more experienced member of the group, using newly acquired tools in conjunction with the steps. How Debtors Anonymous and psychotherapy can work synergistically is the topic of Kellen and Levine’s chapter of I Shop, Therefore I Am.

Simplicity circles can be a helpful support to compulsive buyers, although the compulsive buying problems are not dealt with as directly as in the various therapies for compulsive buying or Debtors Anonymous. What simplicity circles do have to offer is a forum: a place to gather with others to discuss personal transformation and the satisfactions of living a simpler life. The caring atmosphere and the discussion of how to create a more fulfilling life is a healthy way to meet some of the principal needs that a compulsive buyer seeks to meet in shopping. In Chapter 20 of my book, Cecile Andrews discusses simplicity circles and the compulsive buyer.

Compulsive buying treatment is still very much in a formative stage. Society, advertising, and the media all conspire against the cultivation of true wealth, which cannot be quantified in a financial balance sheet but must instead be felt and sensed: self-esteem, family, friendships, a sense of community, health, education, creative pursuits, communion with nature. It is inner poverty, both emotional and spiritual, that is at the core of most compulsive spending. The acquisition of truth wealth is crucial to recovery.

For information about Dr. Benson’s online course for mental health professionals, click here.

Note: Nothing on this site is intended to take the place of psychotherapy with a trained professional.