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At this year’s Annual OCD Conference in Atlanta, we are excited to be hosting the first-ever Special Hoarding Program within the larger conference program. Though we always try to present offerings about a range of disorder related to OCD, this is the most in-depth conference programming we have ever offered on the topic of hoarding.

This program consists of 2 professional training sessions, a 2-day workshop track devoted specifically to hoarding disorder (HD), and 2 support groups about hoarding — one for individuals with HD, and one for their family members. 

To tell us more about the program, we invited Christiana Bratiotis, PhD, LICSW, to the blog to answer some frequently asked questions. Dr. Bratiotis co-developed this year’s Special Hoarding Program together with Dr. Randy Frost, and Dr. Gail Steketee and is leading one of the the pre-conference trainings for professionals working with hoarding disorder, entitled, “What Every Professional Working with Hoarding Disorder Needs to Know: A Comprehensive Overview.”

Can you tell us a bit about your background working both with hoarding and task force professionals, and directly with individuals with hoarding disorder?

I’ve been working in the area of hoarding disorder exclusively for the past 9 years.  I was a doctoral student and post-doctoral research fellow at Boston University School of Social Work from 2004–2012, where I was trained by Dr. Gail Steketee. After moving to Omaha, Nebraska where I serve as an Assistant Professor of Social Work, I’ve continued my research, clinical work, consultation and training in the area of hoarding disorder.

I am both a cognitive behavioral therapist who treats people who hoard using the specialized CBT developed by Steketee & Frost and a researcher in the area of community interventions for hoarding.  Specifically, my research and consultation work is focused on the formation and operation of hoarding task forces and other coordinated community efforts to address hoarding from both a private mental health and public health and safety perspective.

Your professional training session at the conference is called “What Every Hoarding Professional Needs to Know.” Can you tell us why this workshop is so critical for those who work with hoarding?

I’m thrilled to be facilitating this pre-conference session this year and hope it will be the start of a tradition! I believe this session provides a rare and important opportunity for people from around the world who represent diverse professional fields to come together to learn about similarities and differences across disciplines when addressing hoarding.

This session will provide some basic information about hoarding, including discussion of motivation and communication when working with someone who hoards.  After creating a common foundation of understanding, the session will provide an opportunity to learn about the resources and challenges of different professional groups when addressing hoarding.  Several community efforts (task forces) will be highlighted and presentations will be made by members about their creative and innovative efforts.  The session will also include opportunities for networking, conversation and planning for future conference efforts.

What types of professionals will benefit from this talk?

The pre-conference professional training is an opportunity for professionals from diverse fields to come together for learning, information sharing and networking.  First responders, professional organizers, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, gerontologists, members of the legal and medical community will all benefit from attending.  This session is intended for all professionals who interface with hoarding behaviors in the course of their work.

In addition the pre-conference professional training, you are also speaking in a number of talks in the new Hoarding Track. Can you tell us a bit about the differences between some of these workshops?

My colleague, Dr. Jordana Muroff and I will be offering an experiential workshop for people who struggle with hoarding.  We’ve done this for several years now and it’s one of the highlights of the conference weekend for me.  It is an opportunity for session attendees to participate in activities to help build motivation to address their hoarding problem after the conference and to give them tools to help with discarding and non-acquiring.

I’m also looking forward to my participation in both an Ask the Expert and Research Updates presentation where I will join Drs. Steketee, Frost, Ayers, Muroff and others in providing evidence-based information to professionals who work with people who hoard.

Finally, this year I’m especially excited about offering a session with my compatriot, Jesse Edsell-Vetter who is a housing case manager.  Jesse and I began work together over 5 years ago and we will talk about the importance of cross-disciplinary partnerships in helping people address their hoarding, using our relationship and work together as a case example.  We anticipate that professionals who attend this session will leave with ideas for partnerships in their work and communities.

You also helped to put together this Special Hoarding Program, along with Gail Steketee and Randy Frost.  Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to help create this “conference within a conference” at this year’s OCD Conference?  

It is an honor to work with the IOCDF and Drs. Steketee and Frost to create the special program on hoarding at this year’s Annual OCD Conference.  During the years that I’ve attended the OCD Conference (and oh by the way, this is my favorite annual professional conference!), I’ve seen firsthand the tremendous growth in interest and attendance specific to hoarding disorder as an OC spectrum disorder.

In addition, the research knowledge base is growing by leaps and bounds and there is a keen wish among those of us in research and clinical practice to provide access to the most evidence-based, current and helpful information and resources for people who hoard and their families.  The new Hoarding Program at this year’s conference is an exciting step forward.  We anticipate that there will continue to be growth in this track of the conference in years to come—stay tuned!!

There are also 2 support groups running on Saturday evening for those with HD as well as their family members and supporters. Why do you think it is important for those with HD and their loved ones to seek support from a support group while at the OCD Conference?

I believe so strongly in the healing atmosphere that is created at the IOCDF conference.  It is a place of respect, mutual learning and understanding as well as a time for self-reflection and growth.  The support groups for people with hoarding disorder and their families exemplify this atmosphere by offering a safe place for discussion, idea sharing and peer support.  Dr. Tompkins will be facilitating this year’s family support group and I strongly encourage family members to take the opportunity to share space and time with him, learning from him and being nurtured by his warmth and empathy.

Which talks are you most looking forward to attending at the conference this year?

Though it sounds a bit cliché, I’m looking forward to attending everything!—especially within the hoarding track.  The IOCDF conference is a special opportunity for me to connect with and learn from my hoarding colleagues and friends from around the world.

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