Profiling April Benson

Posted by Jill Chivers in Interviews and Profiles

Dr April Lane Benson

This week it’s a delight to introduce you to Dr April Lane Benson, one of our fabulous faculty.  I met April 18 months ago and since then we’ve become friends and colleagues. 

April is a true pioneer and thought leader in the world of compulsive overshopping.  She’s an author, workshop leader and one of the most generous people I’ve ever met.

Read on to discover April’s passions and a sliver of her background you might not know about, what her interest is in My Year Without Clothes Shopping, and what you’ll expect from the material she has contributed to MYWCS.

Tell us about what led you to working with people who compulsively overshop

For 25 years, I worked with people with eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia for the most part.  In the mid 1990s, my favorite store in New York was going out of business and this store had meant a lot to me over the years, I had shopped there often.  I decided that I wanted to write the owner an essay, a eulogy, if you like, about what the store meant to me.

This experience led me to develop a workshop (When Shopping Heals) about the positive values about shopping.  It explored shopping as a form of self expression, creativity – and yes, healing.

During this time, my workshop was featured in New York Magazine. Then an editor called me about doing a book and I got an agent, both of which were cancelled shortly after.

Because I was a psychologist, people assumed I was interested in compulsive buying, which I wasn’t at the time.  However I soon started learning about it.   In the process of all I was learning, I did a lot of research into what had already been written.  Well, there was nothing in the English language for professionals (other than 1 or 2 case illustrations).  So I took what I learned and put it into a book for professionals – which was “I Shop Therefore I Am: compulsive buying and the search for self” which was published in 2000.

After that book was published, people started coming to me for this problem and I developed a treatment program.

In 2003, I launched a website.

In 2005, I started running face-to-face groups.  By that time, I had really honed this treatment program.  Because it was going so well and because there was so little written on this specific problem, I decided I wanted to put a book together, based on my program, to help people.  I got a contract for that book which is “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why we Overshop and How to Stop.” It was published at the end of 2008.

Soon after that book was published, I created two companion workshops for people to do the exercises from the book.

Why are you passionate about overshopping and overshoppers?

Because it’s such an under-served area.  The population is so under-served.  We know there are so many millions of shopaholics, worldwide, but there are so few targeted programs.  

Because I saw what shopping could really be about when you do it in a mindful way, and that’s why I have so much of an investment in helping other people learn how to do it mindfully.  

Shopping can be an exercise in self-definition.   Mindful shopping is about trying to figure out if a new or possible purchase is a reflection of your interior self.   Shopping can be a way of helping someone define themselves.  It’s also a way of expressing different things about the self. Putting together a home, a wardrobe – it can be a real exercise in creativity.  

In my particular case, the healing aspect had to do with the fact that when I was little, my mother (who was a child of the Depression) was very worried about money and shopping was a real source of conflict between us.

As a young woman, I shopped at this one store for 20 years (the one I wrote the eulogy for) and I came to feel better and better about shopping.  Those guilty, shame-filled voices got softer and softer.  The staff in the store actually helped me to shop mindfully (a very unusual and positive experience.  And it was very healing for me).

I was a compulsive shopper myself.  My problem was less financial than it was time and energy and the pre-occupation that shopping was for me.

My mission is to bring overshopping out of the closet – literally and figuratively.  I want people to know effective help is available.  I want therapists to know that there is a way to help shopaholics.  And I’d love the government to know that safeguards need to be taken – there are so many enablers of compulsive buying (online auction sites, for example) –  like there are in other areas (such as drinking and gambling).

What is your interest in MYWCS and conscious shopping?

My interest in MYWCS is that it’s a program that really helps women who need a program and a system to support them and holds their hands as they make important changes.  MYWCS helps women see that they actually don’t need to keep buying in order to look good and feel good.

The reason I was so happy to meet Jill and learn about MYWCS is because it’s another helpful resource for overshoppers and shopaholics.  There are so few of these!

Women who do MYWCS feel better about and make better use of the things they already have AND they also learn how stop buying.

The quality of the material and of course the commitment of the creator – Jill – made me feel like it was a wonderful resource and one that I wanted to promote and be involved in.

This program is so useful for women to shop in their closet – it’s so practical and inspirational.

What will we see/hear/experience from you in the MYWCS program

In Month 6, you’ll learn about acts of self kindness.  These are grouped around needs – needs for discovery, for sensual stimulation, to exercise your intellect, and so on. 

There are eight (8) core needs that these acts of self kindness address.  You need to find other things that meet these needs – activities that will enhance your life much more than shopping ever did. 

In Month 12, the material I provide will help you prepare for re-entering the land of the shopping as Jill calls it.  We give you three proven and powerful strategies for stopping overshopping and 16 additional strategies you can use to stick to your goals of mindful shopping, now that your Year Without Clothes Shopping is coming to a close. 

One of these strategies is to tailour make your own alternatives.  This is important because when you are triggered you don’t normally have all of your faculties available to you – parts of your brain have been activated and these parts are looking for instant gratification.  You may not be able, at that moment, to activate that part of the brain that deals with executive decision making and judgement. 

Thank you April!

For more information about April, her books and resources, you can visit her site.

And if you are dealing with an overshopping program and are looking for a program that will truly be there for you, over the long haul, give us a try.

One of our newest members reported that she tried to go it alone last year and (in her own words) “surprise surprise, it did not work“.  This program works. 

But don’t take my word for it: Read what Tamara reported just last week on our Success Stories page (under the title I Don’t Need To Buy Things To Enjoy Life)

And please come join us – we’d love to share this important and transformational journey with you.

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