How do you cure a hoarder?

Curing hoarding is a complex process, and compulsive hoarding is often very difficult to treat. The most common treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy. However, although CBT may decrease the symptoms, it may not be as effective for certain groups, such as older adults. Research suggests it takes 26 therapy sessions or more for severe cases.

While treatment varies, most mental health professionals focus on the following goals when working with a hoarder:

  • Determine values. Identify the things that the hoarder values; what does he/she care most about? Is it their children, friends, faith, etc. Also, learn what the client considers his/her ideal life.

  • Motivate and encourage. Use these values to increase motivation and remind the client why he/she will be closer to their personal goals and the things they value if they put in the effort to change their behavior.

  • Skills training. Treatment then shifts to teaching various skills on how to organize, setting guidelines for acquiring, keeping, and discarding. The next step is creating an actionable plan to tackle the client's home or problem area by breaking down each room (or area or collection of items) into manageable steps. These steps may be completed with the therapist or alone as homework assignments.

  • Maintain new behaviors. This includes identifying triggers and coming up with ways to prevent relapse. Unfortunately, even with treatment, most clients will continue to have hoarding disorder after treatment, so it's important to focus on maintaining the new skills, but also emphasizing that more treatment may be necessary later on.

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