The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft and Spending
March 2007 E-Newsletter

Big Changes for The Shulman Center!
by Terrence Daryl Shulman, JD,LMSW,ACSW,CAC,CPC

Beginning this month, The Shulman Center for Theft Addictions & Disorders will be changing its name to The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft and Spending. Our websites have been updated as well by our friends at Better Direction Design. We invite you to take a look at and its associated links to see updated information, our mission statement, and easier navigation.

What has prompted this shift is that I have become increasingly interested in issues related to money and finance that my research and clinical work have shown are major areas of dysfunction for many people. When I expanded my initial counseling practice from working with just shoplifters to also working with other theft issues (most notably, employee theft) I also realized many of my compulsive theft clients had issues with spending and/or shopping, either prior, subsequent to, or concurrent with their stealing.

When I launched the website two years ago, I also saw the writing on the wall that compulsive shopping and spending education, assessment and treatment were all too rare. The "hit counter" I installed on each of my websites quickly showed that this website was the most visited of all my sites combined. I remain very committed to continuing my pioneering work in the field of compulsive theft. I also feel called to be on the cutting edge of compulsive shopping and spending treatment.

In the last two years, I've read books and research on compulsive shopping and spending; counseled clients with these issues; appeared on The Montel Williams Show in July 2006 and, just last month, on local Detroit TV News to shed light on these issues; and I am currently completing a 14-week therapist training with Dr. April Benson, one of the pioneers in this field.

I'm excited about The Shulman Center's growing ability to serve our current and future clients (and the community as a whole) with greater expertise. As our mission statement highlights: we envision a world where nobody feels compelled to steal, overshop, or overspend: a world of financial and emotional balance, honesty, and of deep self-esteem and self-worth for all.

Thanks for being on the cutting edge with us!

Please see article below for further opinion on the topic of compulsive shopping and spending.


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Compulsive Shopping & Spending Disorders... The Next Frontier of Addiction Treatment!

by Terrence Daryl Shulman, JD,LMSW,ACSW,CAC,CPC

Money may be a more taboo subject than sex. Think about it: most of us talk more openly with family and friends about our love lives and its specifics than we do about the details of our financial lives. We may know who's sleeping with whom but do you know how much your family members or friends earn per year? How much their house or car cost? How much they have in the bank or invested? Despite the blossoming number of books, magazines, radio and TV shows devoted to wealth and financial topics, we're still a little sheepish on divulging details, lest we seem to be boasting or failing to measure up.

In my work with "theft addicts" over the last decade, it was crystal clear that most had deeply conflicted relationships with money, wealth, spending, and consumerism in general. I've worked with many clients who grew up in both financially and emotionally deprived families who felt owed "something for nothing" to make up for it. I've worked with clients with obsessive-compulsive disorders who couldn't seem to bring themselves to spend certain amounts of money on things due to a deep fear that they would go broke or feel guilty of sinful extravagence; thus, they'd steal things or change price tags or embezzle a bit from work to offset their required and more unavoidable expenditures. I've worked with clients who'd go on spending binges and then stealing binges. And I've worked with clients who had, at best, a juvenile relationship to money: no sense of reality about income, savings and expenditure.

Indeed, I was like this myself until I got into recovery in 1990. I stole with no real sense of accountability to my income and my need to save, invest, and plan for the future. Why should I have? As long as I was stealing, I had a false sense of security that no matter how hard times got, I could always steal as a survival skill. I am grateful times have a-changed. My recovery forced me to get real about money and goals. While I still lean more toward scarcity consciousness and frugality rather than excessive spending or shopping, I have been learning more and more about how our relationship to money, wealth, spending and shopping is a source of wounds--and potential healing--that permeates our lives individually and in relationships. I even have a family member who we have been worried may be a compulsive shopper. He's even begun to consider this himself.

In the U.S. we often hear that the divorce rate has consistently hovered around 50%. Recent studies have shown that the primary reasons couples argue and split is related to money and spending issues. A friend or mine who is a divorce attorney informed me that January is the busiest month for divorce filings. Maybe it's the New Year syndrome; maybe it's partly due to the stress of the Holidays just past--much of which is due to overspending.

A recent Stanford University study estimates that nearly 6% of the U.S. population (that's about 17 Million people) suffers from "compulsive shopping disorder." Perhaps surprisingly, men apparently have CSD at about the same rate as woman. CSD is much like other addictive-compulsive disorders (be it gambling, shoplifting, etc.) in that there is a recurrent behavior that is out of control, progressive and detrimental. For those with CSD, increased debt and financial troubles, lost time, relationship conflicts, lying or hiding purchases, and highs followed by depression, shame and anxiety typically are present.

And yet, as with most new research, it will take a while for compulsive shopping (or spending) disorder to be treated seriously by most persons. The tendency remains to treat money or shopping issues as just that:--money or shopping issues rather than as mental health issues--where, at most, it would be advised to merely cut up one's credit cards, stay out of stores or off the computer, and seek out recipes for better budgeting or financial advisors. All of these may be of some help but, often, without viewing these problems through the eyes of addiction and recovery, relapse is likely and the opportunity for further insight and healing is lost. Clinical therapeutic issues such as deprivation, grief and loss, repressed anger, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem are often at the core of CSD.

We also live in a very consumer-oriented society. It is hard to avoid temptations at every turn to spend or keep up with the Joneses. After 9/11, the President essentially told the country "don't worry, go shopping." It is unfortunate that our political leaders, CEO's, and even our own parents often don't model good budgeting and healthy relationships with money. For many, it seems that a cycle of overspending as income dwindles has become the rule rather than the exception. We have a whole genre of "chick lit" (young female-oriented literature) that chronicles the joys of consumption shopping and has as its model a series of tongue-in-cheek books on shopaholism, most notably "Confessions of a Shopaholic"--soon to be released as a major movie. 

I stumbled recently upon a couple of ads that stood as further evidence of the joking manner in which we as a culture push "retail therapy." One, an Annie Sez national chain clothing store, has this tag line: "more than a store, it's an obsession." Another ad was in the December 2006 local Detroit area monthly magazine Hour Detroit: a two-page centerfold ad of various stores for a particularly trendy town had the banner "O Come All Ye Shopaholics!" Can you imagine a series of taverns, bars and saloons running an ad that read "O Come All Ye Alcoholics!"? How about a consortium of casinos running an ad stating "O Come All Ye Pathological Gamblers!"? You get the picture.

I encourage each of us to think about our own relationship with money, shopping, and spending and also consider those around us as well as the culture we live in and the messages--subtle to glaring--that bombard us each day. Take the Valencia Compulsive Shopping Scale test found our our website to learn more about this growing issue. Education and prevention are keys. Research, books, and articles are increasingly providing us with knowledge and wisdom that can transform our relationship to money, shopping, and spending for the better. Some of us will experience deep healing and growth and also be able to pass on better modeling to those around us.

We can turn life around one step at a time toward a more stable, healthy, and joyous relationship to money and things. Let it begin with each of us.





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Mr. Shulman was on Detroit TV News Feb. 22 & 23rd discussing compulsive shopping disorder. Click link for transcript & video!,2132,WXYZ_15948_5371213,00.html

I was honored to be a part of this segment which included "anonymous" interviews with both female and male compulsive shoppers. I also answered e-mailed questions live for an hour in the news studios.

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Women's Entertainment Cable Channel planning hour-long segment on shoplifting addiction on "Secret Lives" program!

Stay tuned for updates on this anticipated hour-long segment on the show "Secret Lives." I am working with the producers to find one or two women willing to tell their stories. As is often the case, it remains difficult to secure persons to discuss this still-shameful topic even when anonymity is assured.

Also, The Dr. Keith Ablow Show recently re-aired a segment on women's secret lives that included a recovering shoplifting addict.

Finally, The Dr. Phil Show will air a segment on March 2, 2007 that will feature a habitual shoplifter.

I had an article on "loving yourself first" in the February issue of The Conscious Mind Journal which can be found online at


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Now Available!

*Available on DVD or CD: My 90-minute presentation on theft addictions and disorders at the 2006 Michigan Social Workers Annual Conference. $50 for the DVD, $25 for the CD or $65 for both. Please contact me directly.

*Available on DVD: my hour-long presentation on theft addictions and disorders from Brighton Hospital September 7, 2006: $75.00; Also, my hour-long presentation on employee theft at The Michigan Financial Managers Conference on October 19, 2006: $50.00; my two hour-long presentation on thefts addictions and disorders at the Birmingham Community House November 9, 2006: $50.00; and my two hour-long presentation on theft addictions and disorders at the San Fernando Valley Employee Assistance Meeting on October 27, 2006: $50.00.

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Contact The Shulman Center

Terrence Shulman
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025


Or call:
(248) 358-8508

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CONTACT THE SHULMAN CENTER if interested in our FALL 2007 2nd International Conference on Theft Addictions & Disorders!

Please e-mail us at or call 248-358-8508 if you are interested in information about our conference which, likely, will be held in the Los Angeles area and which may include a topic on compulsive shopping & spending. We will be making final decisions by May 1, 2007. Thanks!

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© 2007 The Shulman Center