What The Wild Things Are

Understandings of Self, Awareness, and Mental Health in an Ever-Changing World

Taking Back What's Been Stolen

a STOP STEALING workbook

I am proud to announce the publication of a workbook I have co-authored with Elizabeth Corsale, MA, MFT titled Taking Back What's Been Stolen.

Stealing has a profound impact on our society. According to the Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), over a million shoplifting offenses were committed in 2008, and by almost all accounts the UCR documents only a fraction of the actual cases. As one expert noted, the dollar amount lost to shoplifting is almost more than “the losses suffered by all individual victims of property crimes combined.” In 2009, the National Retail Security Survey (NRSS) calculated the cost of shoplifting for that year at $11.7 billion. Consumer Reports estimates that shoplifting costs U.S. families $450 in price hikes on household products per year.

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According to the only large-scale study on shoplifting, the 2001 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a “lifetime prevalence” for shoplifting occurs among 10 percent (or approximately 30 million) of Americans. To put that number in perspective, 10 percent is often cited as the number of Americans suffering from depression, and 8 percent as the number who are drug and/or alcohol dependent.

Those suffering from compulsive stealing also lose; they accumulate long rap sheets of criminal charges and can spend years in prison, destroying their lives and breaking apart families because of their inability to resist the impulse to steal. In spite of this, kleptomaniacs are often deeply ashamed and don’t seek treatment. Even if they did, there is very little specialized treatment available to people who steal; only a few therapists in the United States specialize in treating this population.

Taking Back What’s Been Stolen aims to help change all of that. The first workbook written for people with kleptomania/compulsive stealing disorder, it offers effective and practical methods to stop this destructive behavior. It also provides clinicians with the diagnostic and treatment tools to effectively help their patients who suffer from this disorder.

People with a compulsive stealing disorder often feel helpless about their compulsion and hopeless they can ever stop, even after they have been arrested and face frightening charges, jail time, and/or loss of relationships. Taking Back What’s Been Stolen offers them hope by providing a program based on the accumulated knowledge of decades of experience helping people stop stealing. This workbook helps them to gain control of their lives and become free to create a life of choice, and ultimately of deeper meaning. 

Elizabeth Corsale and I are co-founders and directors of the Pathways Institute, one of the few nationally recognized treatment programs for compulsive stealing and kleptomania and other impulse control disorders and addictions. We have worked for the past 15 years providing treatment, consultation, and training, and conducting research in order to provide evidenced-based and effective treatment. We also founded an assessment and treatment program for kids with learning and attention differences called Pathways Assessment.


Samantha Smithstein, Psy.D., is a clinical and forensic psychologist and co-founder of the Pathways Institute for Impulse Control in San Francisco.


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