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Skype is the easy to use, free live video live tool that, assuming your computer has a suitable webcam and Internet access, should enable you to work with Dr. Cupchik from the comfort of your own home no matter where you live in the USA, Canada, England, or almost any other country.                                                                                         May 22 2013

To learn about the 20-session life online Intensive Intervention Program click on   http://www.whyhonestpeoplesteal.com/live_interactive_video_enabled_Intervention_Program.htm




    This is the web site of psychologist Will Cupchik Ph.D., the original investigator and most experienced clinician to have researched, practiced and published in the area of usually honest adults who steal. He was the senior author of the article titled, Shoplifting: An Occasional Crime Of The Moral Majority, published in the major, peer-reviewed professional journal, The Bulletin of the Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, in 1983. 

    For more than three decades, Dr. Cupchik has been working as a registered Psychologist in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with clients who live in the USA, Canada, and other countries. His first book on this topic, titled WHY HONEST PEOPLE SHOPLIFT OR COMMIT OTHER ACTS OF THEFT: The Assessment and Treatment of Atypical Theft Offenders', is available in paperback and as an ebook from most major online booksellers .

His latest book, WHY USUALLY HONEST PEOPLE STEAL: Assessing, Treating and Stopping Nonsenscial Shoplifting and Other Bizarre Theft Behavior, will be available in March 2013, and offers his very latest findings and developments in this field.

These two books may be read as Volumes 1 & 2 on this topic.


Using Skype, a free download, Dr. Cupchik now offers his services to suitable clients who can work with him from the comfort of their own home or business, without the additional costs and other inconveniences involved in traveling away from home. 


This site also describes the various activities in which Dr. Cupchik has been engaged throughout his multi-faceted career over the past four-plus decades.

Dr. Cupchik...

  • ... has been a psychotherapist for over fifty years. He received training in individual and group therapy at many venues, including the Western Institute For Group And Family Therapy located in Watsonville, California, beginning in 1972. WIGFT's co-directors, Dr. Bob and Mary Goulding, taught their Redecision [Transactional-Gestalt] Therapy approach to attendees at their month-long and other extended workshops; Dr. Cupchik was also a guest lecturer at some of their workshops, and he has been referred to in some of their books.


  • ... conducts individual, couples, and intergenerational (parent/adult child) psychotherapy via Skype.


  • ... is the originator of numerous original assessment and therapeutic tools. In the latter category is Reintrojection Therapy, a unique approach to uncovering and healing long-term, often painful, remnants of previous and/or ongoing relationships, especially including parent-child difficulties. This approach was reported upon in 1984 in Dr. Cupchik's article titled Reintrojection Therapy: A Procedure For Altering Parental Introjects, in the professional journal, Psychotherapy: Therapy, Research, and Practice. His work in this area was also cited in Dr. Christine Coutrious' important book, Healing the Incest Wound.    


  • ... has worked with many clients regarding personally meaningful losses, depression, and anger, as well as on mid-life, mid-career issues, life and executive coaching, and pre-retirement and retirement matters.  


Dr. Cupchik's working life has been very extensive and varied:

  •  he first worked as a professional electrical engineer (in 1961-2) at Computing Devices of Canada, designing navigational guidance systems for the then-next generation of military (including American and Canadian) aircraft; he worked as a:
  •  psychometrist and (later) psychologist on the forensic staff at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (12 years total: 1974-86)
  •  Psychologist-in-Charge, Forensic Outpatient Psychological Services at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (2 years: 1984-86)
  •  Psychologist in private practice (1986 to present)
  •  university lecturer in psychotherapy for the Graduate Studies dept of the University of Toronto 
  •  developer of various original psychological techniques and pen-an-paper tools in the areas of relationships and atypical theft behavior
  •  author of the novel, The Arrow Manipulation: Murdering Medicare 


  MEDIA in the United States, Britain, Europe, Canada, and Australia have shown considerable interest in Dr. Cupchik's work with usually honest people who steal over the past three decades.  (Below is a partial listing.)

Dr. Cupchik has appeared on : CBS's Early Show,  MSNBC Investigates,  ABC's Good Morning America,   CBS NEWS 48 Hours,  The Sam Donaldson Radio Show, Lifetime Network's New Attitudes Program, The CTV news, CBC news programs, and many more   

He has been quoted in The New York Times...,   Los Angeles Times....,    San Francisco Chronicle...,    Chicago Sun-Tribune....,   Bloomberg News ... SELF magazine...., HEALTH magazine....,  PEOPLE magazine... the Globe and Mail and many other media programs and publications. 






Why ‘Kleptomania’ Hardly Exists...

 And Yet Antidepressants Might Trigger It

         An article by Dr Will Cupchik, Head of The Cupchik Center For The Assessment And Treatment Of Atypical Theft Offenders

    There is hardly a behavior more headline-grabbing and curious than learning that a wealthy, prominent or famous person has been charged with shoplifting. And what if the alleged thief is someone you know personally; perhaps one of your friends or relatives, or -heaven forbid-, yourself, who has committed a seemingly nonsensical, bizarre act of stealing! Such behaviors are usually referred to as examples of ‘kleptomania’?

    Consider this scenario; until a short time ago, you - an honest, hard-working, possibly deeply religious person - had never shoplifted. And yet, you have now done it, and perhaps, amazingly, not for the first time! What gives?

     My over 40 years of clinical investigations suggest that it is very likely that you have recently experienced an extraordinary amount of stress, perhaps ever since your marriage disintegrated, your child became very seriously ill, you or a loved one had a cancer diagnosis, or ever since you've gotten that new, entirely unreasonable boss. Or perhaps there is some other very troublesome situation in your life. And now, here you are - charged with stealing! Chances are you're very scared, deeply embarrassed and very anxious that some family members or friends -or perhaps someone at work- will find out. And to top it all, you really haven't a clue why you would have risked stealing anything, and certainly not something you could easily have afforded, and perhaps didn't even want!!!

     So, why did you do it? After all, you have always viewed stealing as inexcusable! And why would you – or anyone for that matter - risk so very much for an item that cost so little especially when compared with your readily available assets? Until you determine why you did it, how can you be sure that you won’t do it again? Answering these and related questions have been at the centre of my own clinical investigations as a psychologist for more than four decades. 

     Consider the following remarkable cases:

    (I) Victor, a wealthy retired business owner and Holocaust survivor, was referred to me back in 1995 by a psychiatrist who knew of my work in the area of ‘atypical theft behavior’. A scrupulously honest man, Victor assured me that he had never stolen before, and certainly could not possibly understand why he had stolen a package of Dr Scholl’s footpads from a drug store on May 12th of that year. During our lengthy interview it finally emerged that he had stolen on the exact 50th anniversary of his liberation from a concentration camp. On May 12, 1945 he and his fellow inmates had been marched, at night, bare feet bleeding, along a rough gravel-filled rail line for hours until dawn, at which point they were freed when their captors ran away and when the American army and Red Cross were just miles away. Was Victor’s single instance of shoplifting a case of his unconscious mind at work? Should his stealing behavior be labelled ‘kleptomania’?  

     (2) In 2002, Winona Ryder, the Hollywood actress, was charged with allegedly stealing items from a Saks 5th avenue store in Beverley Hills. In another case, a prominent surgeon was caught stealing jewellery and cash from colleagues’ lockers while they were in their operating rooms.  In a third case, a religiously devout woman stole whenever her husband had yet another bout of prostate cancer. She had never stolen before his initial diagnosis, had never been caught, and furthermore, she always threw the items she stole into the Goodwill box on her way home immediately after her thefts.

     (3) In January 2012 California Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi (D), wife of Dennis Hayashi, an Alameda County Superior Court judge, allegedly left a Neiman Marcus store without paying for items of clothing worth nearly $2500. She pleaded ‘no contest’ to misdemeanour shoplifting.

      (4) As a last example, consider that in 1993 the Acting Secretary of the U.S. Army, John W. Shannon, was charged with stealing $30 worth of goods, including a blouse, from a store on an Army base.

     Should any of these folks be considered ‘kleptomaniacs’? Readers can be excused if they quickly associate the term 'kleptomania' with any of the above cases; after all, this is the term that is still most frequently used by the media and by far too many psychiatrists and psychologists, when referring to seemingly nonsensical shoplifting. But, I would suggest, based upon my extensive clinical work in this area, that the application of this term, ‘kleptomania’, to these and a myriad of other cases of atypical theft behavior, is almost always wrong!  

     Our first article on this topic, titled Shoplifting: An Occasional Crime Of The Moral Majority, was published in the major peer-reviewed journal, the Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, more than thirty years ago, in 1983. Our clinical investigations of a representative sample of 34 shoplifters who had presented on our forensic service (at the University of Toronto-affiliated Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, between 1974 and 1982) concluded that when usually honest - and yes, in some instances, prominent and/or financially affluent - people stole, one or more psychological factors had very likely precipitated their actions. These contributing factors included: (i) what the theft offender perceived as actual or anticipated unfair personally meaningful losses (of a spouse, job, country, health, etc…), (ii) extreme stressors, (iii) a desire for unconscious retribution or manipulation, and/or (iv) the actual or anticipated occurrence of cancer in one’s self or in a loved one, among other reasons.    

     My latest (2013) study of 30 more recent cases, as described in my latest book titled Why Usually Honest People Steal (2013) provides considerable additional  insight into such behavior. It turns out that many of these ‘Atypical Theft Offenders’ (as we term usually honest persons who display atypical theft behavior) had highly disturbed or traumatic childhoods, often involving serious mental, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse perpetrated by one or both parents, who themselves had serious mental, emotional, alcohol and/or drug abuse problems. These theft offenders also, almost invariably, had very low self-esteem (regardless of how accomplished they actually were in the world – consider that three were highly successful physicians, three others were experienced nurses and four others were exceptional teachers).  And they all had long-standing feelings of anger and major problems in their primary relationships.

     Another likely precipitating factor has become prominent in our finding over the past more than fifteen years - the use of antidepressants. It has become almost a common form of treatment for physicians to prescribe antidepressants for these sorts of theft offenders. Now, major questions have arisen in recent years about the efficacy of such medications. To this debate I would merely point out that the pharmaceutical manufacturers themselves indicate that the side effects of such drugs can include increased hostility and aggressivity, disinhibition and self-defeating, acting out behavior.  My clinical experience is that when usually honest people shoplift, they do so while experiencing these very emotions and behaviors.  In fact, among the 30 individuals in my latest study were three senior physicians, three dedicated nurses and a pharmacist. All seven medical professionals were taking prescribed antidepressants at the time they stole and all reported that their stealing had not decreased - or had actually begun - while taking such drugs. Also, seven of the 30 persons in the latest study reported that they had never shoplifted until shortly after they had begun taking antidepressants.    

     Among the several serious objections that have been raised by other clinicians regarding the American Psychiatric Association’s latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), some of which have been discussed in these pages, I would like to add one more, based upon the more than 700 cases that I have dealt with over the past four decades. In virtually all instances, thorough assessments of these individuals have suggested that their theft behaviors were very likely precipitated, at least in large part, “to express anger or vengeance”, which according to explicitly stated DSM-5 criteria, must exclude them from being labeled as suffering from kleptomania.   

     Actually, I have likely never encountered a single instance of true ‘kleptomania’, as defined by DSM. It is my professional opinion, as possibly the most experienced and senior clinician to have dealt with acts of seemingly nonsensical or bizarre shoplifting by usually honest persons, that true cases of ‘kleptomania’ hardly exist. A much more useful and realistic classification would be to refer to these folks as ‘Atypical Theft Offenders’, as indeed I have referred to them in my own writings for over 28 years. As well, I have developed a 33-item questionnaire, the Theft Offender Spectrum, which helps differentiate such individuals from the more common thieves who happily steal without remorse or embarrassment, and who we have termed Typical Theft Offenders. 

     Helping Atypical Theft Offenders stop stealing invariably requires that the these individuals uncover and deal with - probably with the help of a suitably trained therapist - the psychological factors that helped trigger their stealing. Successful clinical work usually involves dealing with earlier as well as more recent issues, which nearly always includes long-standing feelings of anger and low self-esteem.  I always encourage these individuals to inquire from  their physicians whether they can reduce, or even eliminate, their use of antidepressants.  

     My two books on atypical theft behavior, Why Honest People Shoplift Or Commit Other Acts Of Theft (Revised Ed, 2002), and Why Usually Honest People Steal (2013), can be of considerable benefit to both clients and the therapists who wish to work with them. The Intensive Intervention Programs that I offer (one via Skype; the other in-office) also have the same goals: (a) to help determine the underlying reasons for the individual's atypical theft behavior, and (b) to help minimize the likelihood of recidivism.

     Meanwhile, the most important thing for Atypical Theft Offenders to keep in mind, especially as they tend to be extremely self-punitive in relation to their theft behavior, is that they are undoubtedly worthwhile individuals who deserve to get the appropriate psychological help they need. And in the meanwhile, they and their loved ones need to treat them with consideration and kindness. 

                                                                                                  This article was last modified on Feb 13 2014



Contact Information

 Due to the unfortunate prevalence of Spam, Dr. Cupchik only opens emails that put (WC) in the Subject line,

and whose wording clearly indicates that the email is meant for him  Email your questions, etc..., to wcupchik@aol.com .

Skype address:


Postal address
2528 Bayview Avenue, P O Box 35532, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M2L 2Y4
Electronic mail
General Information: wcupchik@aol.com  


Please note: this DrWillCupchik.com contains many elements, including information pertaining to

Dr. Cupchik's programs for Atypical Theft Offenders. For even more information about this topic,

you may go to his  www.WhyHonestPeopleSteal.com website.

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Last modified: August 18, 2013