4 Session Interactive Telecourse for Therapists

To Buy or Not to Buy: Theory and Treatment of Compulsive Buying Disorder

An interactive 4-session telecourse for mental health professionals
taught by April Lane Benson, Ph.D.

EditorI Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self (Aronson, 2000)
AuthorTo Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop (Trumpeter, 2008)

DATES: 4 Fridays in 2011: January 7, 14, 21, 28
TIMES: 10:30-noon Eastern Standard Time
FEE: $395 (early registration, before December 10, 2010, $345)

Compulsive buying continues coming out of the closet—and with the recession in full swing, not a moment too soon. Although the disorder was first described by Kraepelin in 1915, only in the last 25 years have we seen specific and persistent inquiry into it. And while the study of compulsive buying is still in relative infancy compared with its psychological siblings—alcoholism, eating disorders, or drug abuse, for example—there is more and more evidence, both research and anecdotal, that “the smiled upon” addiction, as it has sometimes been called, poses a serious and worsening problem in the United States, Western Europe, and elsewhere. Affecting somewhere between 3 and 12 percent of the population, compulsive buying has significant emotional, social, occupational, and financial consequences, ever moreso in today’s economic climate.

The course begins with a thorough introduction to “affluenza” or compulsive buying disorder. We explore the culture of consumption that gives rise to it and the high price of materialism. We look at the professional unease that’s not uncommon in working with overshoppers.

We then focus on the etiology, assessment, diagnosis, comorbidity, and function of this increasingly global problem. We continue with a survey of the forms of treatment and treatment adjuncts known to be effective with overshoppers, and focus in on specific tools and strategies. Finally, we take a close look at two basic and seminal questions: What is shopping? and What are we really shopping for?

“I have known April Benson since 2005 and have been impressed with her pioneering work in the field of compulsive shopping and spending. I read her book “I Shop Therefore I Am” and completed her teletraining in early 2007. It was very valuable and gave me more understanding and confidence to work with clients who suffer from compulsive shopping and spending.”

“I am seeing my practice grow and am seeing results with my clients. Dr. Benson has been gracious in helping to promote me and answer any questions I may have along the way. I can’t recommend her program highly enough.”

Terrence Daryl Shulman, JD, LMSW, ACSW, CAC, CPC
Founder/Director, The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft & Spending, Author of “Bought Out & $pent! Recovery from Compulsive $hopping & $pending” (2008)

“I recently completed April Benson’s training program on Stopping Overshopping. Dr. Benson has substantively examined addictive shopping, spending, and buying and now has extended training to clinicians on this subject. I can highly recommend this learning opportunity.”

Linda M. Smith, PhD, LMFT
Tallahassee, FL

“Dr. Benson is an outstanding contributor to a vast new field, helping a population of suffering people among us.

She has helped me both professionally and personally, and I highly recommend her course to therapists who wish to expand their practices.”

Penelope J. Hooks, M.D.
Houston, TX

Educational Objectives:

Through reading the most current literature and through class discussion, you learn what compulsive buying is, how our culture supports it, what forms the disorder takes, how to assess and diagnose it, and what its various functions are.

Additionally, you learn how to determine when intervention is necessary and what forms of effective treatment and treatment adjuncts are available, whether or not you personally choose to do the focused, structured work so necessary for recovery from this problem. You’ll be introduced to a variety of important tools, techniques, and strategies for working with compulsive buyers and learn how to integrate them into ongoing treatment. Finally, we’ll deconstruct the shopping process and untie the knot that binds shopping and buying so tightly together so that you can help overshoppers find out what they’re really shopping for and how to get that. There will be ample opportunity for participants to bring in case material if they choose to.

Session 1 – Affluenza: Introduction to Compulsive Buying Disorder

In the first session, we explore what compulsive buying is, how it differs from normal buying, and how living in a culture of consumption affects it. We look at prevalence, at who becomes a compulsive buyer, at the question of gender, and at whether overshopping is best understood as a psychiatric disorder or a search for a better self. We also survey the variety of functions that it serves in the life of the compulsive buyer and touch on what’s often our professional unease when working with compulsive buying clients.

Session 2 – What Works and Why: Forms of Treatment and Treatment Adjuncts

In this session we survey the various forms of treatment and treatment adjuncts. We review some of the treatment research and then focus on particular tools, skills, and strategies known to help people with compulsive buying disorder. Finally, we look at the issue of whether, when, and how to integrate specific compulsive buying interventions into ongoing psychotherapy.

Session 3 – The Birdseye View: Theoretical and Technical Perspectives

This session begins with the idea that compulsive shopping is but one form of a larger constellation of behaviors that have in common an intense desire to acquire, possess, and/or hoard objects. We touch on some of these related behaviors and explore what often leads therapists to overlook or underemphasize their clients’ buying behavior. We explore two very different approaches to working with overshoppers and discuss how to help clients feel motivated to do the serious work of making changes.

Session 4 – What is shopping? What Are We Really Shopping For?

In this final session, we explore shopping as search and discovery, not necessarily related to buying or having. We stretch out the landscape of shopping, moving beyond goods and services into experiences and ideas; and we look at research suggesting that when we choose experiences over things, we’re significantly happier. We close by revisiting the idea that authentic underlying needs propel the impulse to overshop, and we explore how to help the people we work with find ways to meet those needs in ways that enhance, rather than erode, life.

Readings and call details will be e-mailed to you when your registration is received. Each call will be recorded and you’ll have access to these recordings should you have to miss a class or want to listen again.

DATES: 4 Fridays in 2011: January 7, 14, 21, 28
TIMES: 10:30-noon Eastern Standard Time
FEE: $395 (early registration, before December 10, 2010, $345)

“I’m glad I decided to take your course on Overshopping. You did a fabulous job with these sessions. The readings were quite substantive and accessible. Your overviews and discussions of the articles were thoughtful and well-organized. You asked important questions and had helpful responses and suggestions for resources and responded fully to questions raised by class members. When you didn’t have the research or resource at your fingertips, you found the material and made it available to all of us shortly after the session. You also supported the knowledge level and expertise of various members of the group and enabled good conversation among the participants. You carefully integrated research on overshopping with issues about other addictive behaviors as well as with ADD and hoarding behaviors. Your insights and generosity of spirit are valued! I highly recommend your course to professionals interested in working with people with overshopping issues.”

Dorian Mintzer, Ph.D.
Boston, Mass.

“Just wanted to add to all the comments about your course. It was so thoughtfully crafted and I learned a tremendous amount of information that I need to digest and then incorporate not only into my work, but my own life. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be a part of this great series of classes!”

Helen Kim
Certified Financial Recovery Counselor
New York, New York

By Carrie Rattle

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Read More