Welcome to the DrWillCupchik.com website.

Below are some of the questions that potential clients and members of the media have asked.

Q-1: So, why do usually honest people shoplift?

A-1: My clinical investigations these past more than 40 years indicate that many generally honest and ethical persons may shoplift and/or commit other acts of theft for one or more of several reasons, all of which I have described in my two books. These reasons include the following:

(i) loss substitution, often driven from the unconscious, after having suffered (or anticipating suffering) what they consider to be unfair personally meaningful losses, such as the loss of a job, health, a relationship, one's spouse or child, etc...

(ii) unconscious retribution, e.g., getting back at someone or some situation by stealing

(iii) as a means of expressing anger or frustration

(iv) a symbolic compensation

and/or  a number of other motivations.

I have gone into great detail about these various reasons, all of which have been evidenced among the many cases I have dealt with over the years.



A-2: Your resume indicates that your first university degree and employment was as an electronics engineer. Why did you change professions and is there any relationship or similarity between these two seemingly very different professions?

A-2: Interestingly, both electronics and psychology involve working with what seems to be clear evidence that certain things may exist. For example, virtually all electrically based devices, from light bulbs to televisions to smartphones, etc..., operate on the assumption that there are these things called 'electrons' that travel through wires or space in certain ways and produce amazing results (light, audio sounds and video images, telephone communications, and so on). Decades of studying how people operate strongly indicates that there exists a conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels of mental activity. Both electronics and my area of psychology (including psychotherapy), in other words, involve going where the evidence takes us, even though we may never hope to actually directly see either a single electron or, for example, low self-esteem. But we may witness what seems to be evidence that both may exist. IT IS THE ABILITY TO TOLERATE THE AMBIQUITY OF NEVER KNOWING, DIRECTLY AND FOR CERTAIN, THAT ELECTRONS OR LOW SELF-ESTEEM ACTUALLY EXIST. But as the saying goes, "If it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, swims like a duck" and so on, then the chances are good that we are dealing with a duck. And if it turns out that a better theory comes along to explain the evidence we witness, then that's just fine.

[It is fair to acknowledge that some folks have a great deal of trouble accepting and living with the uncertainty of not knowing, for certain, that something does - or does not- exist or is true. It is also true that pharmaceutical manufacturers often state that they are not certain why some of their drugs work as they do, but theydo, and most of us are grateful to have the benefit of some medications that alleviate pain and certain diseases, for example, even if the companies that produce them are not even sure why they work as they do.]


Q-3: Do the courts recognize your Programs? 


A-3: Yes. In many instances defence lawyers have provided copies of my books and/or my Psychological Reports to the prosecuting attorneys and/or the judges that were to be dealing with the cases of the atypical theft offenders they were representing. In many instances these materials have been given serious consideration and affected how the cases were dealt with and the kinds of judgments rendered.

[A while back I received a most interesting email from a gentleman who wanted me to know that after his 83-year old father [a retired businessman and a church elder] had stolen from the branch of a nation-wide department store chain and was arrested and charged, the writer had obtained a copy of my (first) book and had read about the prevalence of the Loss-Substitution-by-Shoplifting phenomenon amongst those usually honest persons we termed 'Atypical Theft Offenders'. The writer had a copy of my book couriered to the CEO of the department store chain along with a letter explaining that his father and mother had shopped at their local store for decades and were well known to the staff. His father shoplifted less than two weeks after his wife of over 55 years had finally died after a lengthy bout with cancer.   The CEO responded by having the local store insist that the charges against his father be dropped. The writer had just wanted me to know the story and about its happy resolution.


Q-4:  My wife took a court-mandated 'stop shoplifting' program a while ago but she was arrested for shoplifting again last week.  How is your Program any different from the Program she took previously?

A-4: While I obviously cannot know what the particular program she took previously was like, I can say that at least two organizations have developed stop-shoplifting programs using my first book as the guide for their group-oriented courses. For some folks such  courses may be quite sufficient. However, in the cases of usually honest persons who have shoplifted, the underlying reasons for their acting out by stealing  are often rather difficult to determine, and helping these persons to resolve these issues frequently involves a relatively in-depth and highly focused psychotherapeutic approach. 

The Intensive Intervention Program I provide is carried out on a 1:1 basis with me, personally, over some 20 sessions.  As the most experienced clinician in this area, the work we do tends to be highly effective, especially as long as the client is willing to become fully engaged in the process. Fortunately I have found that most clients who take the Program have been sufficiently  screened as a result of materials they provide to me and the Free Brief Screening Interview that we carry out beforehand to help ensure that they are indeed suitable candidates for the Program.


Q-5: How did you first become interested in dealing with these sorts of cases?

A-5: I began investigating cases of atypical theft behavior that had been carried out by usually honest (sometimes high profile and/or very financially well off) adults when I was working on the forensic unit of the University of Toronto-affiliated Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. It so happened that we began to receive an increasingly large number of such cases, usually referred to us by their lawyers, because the cases seemed to defy logic; here were folks committing acts of what could almost be considered 'nonsense' thefts whereby the offenders had so much to lose by shoplifting items that were often worth very little, in monetary terms.

Having no preconceived notions about why these normally honest persons would bother to shoplift, we went where our investigations led us. By 'us' I am referring primarily to my then-colleague, senior psychiatrist Dr Don Atcheson and myself. By the time we had several years and a great many cases behind us (and keep in mind that our investigations were not funded by any pharmaceutical or other company with a possibly vested interest in our findings), we found that we had what we believed to be a sound basis for writing an article explaining our findings; this article was published in the prestigious, peer-reviewed professional journal, the Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (AAPL), in 1983. The title of the article was, Shoplifting: An Occasional Crime Of The Moral Majority. This article is still available for reading, for free, on the AAPL website.