We are excited to announce that for the second year in a row, we will be holding the Annual Hoarding Meeting at the IOCDF’s Annual OCD Conference. The 2nd Annual Hoarding Meeting provides critical information to individuals, families, and loved ones affected by hoarding disorder, with the goal of improving access to effective and compassionate treatment and care. The Annual Hoarding Meeting also offers an opportunity for professionals — from therapists and social workers to firefighters and other public safety officials — to learn how to most effectively and compassionately work with individuals with HD. Professionals will hear from leading researchers and experts in the field, and will walk away with new understanding and practical strategies for working with those affected by HD.
We asked Gail Steketee, MSW, PhD, and Randy O. Frost, PhD, both members of the Conference Planning Committee who helped to build the Annual Hoarding Meeting program, to answer a few questions about why this meeting is so important.
Why was the Annual Hoarding Meeting created?
Gail Steketee, MSW, PhD: The need, even demand, for training and for people from several different professional disciplines and for sufferers and family members to be able to just talk with each other was a major driver for adding the Annual Hoarding Meeting as a track within the IOCDF’s Annual OCD Conference. The OCD Conference is uniquely inclusive and was by far the best context for developing and disseminating research, clinical and practical educational information.
Randy O. Frost, PhD: Hoarding has been an under-recognized problem until very recently. Only last year the American Psychiatric Association recognized it as a separate disorder. Because of this, few if any mental health practitioners know anything about it. The IOCDF Annual Hoarding Meeting was created to fill this void by providing education and training about hoarding for mental health professionals, sufferers, family members, and other many others who confront this problem as part of their work.
There are many people involved in the treatment of hoarding disorder (those with hoarding themselves, their family members/friends, mental health professionals, public health officials, professional organizers, fire marshals, etc.). Are all of these members of the community invited to attend the Hoarding Meeting? What will all of these professionals get out of the meeting, and why do you think it’s important for first responders and other professionals to learn about hoarding?
GS: Yes, definitely – everyone is invited! That’s the beauty of this meeting – we can all learn from each other. The more we have worked to understand hoarding and develop best practices, the more it becomes clear that hoarding is a multi-dimensional problem that requires a broad effort from everyone who encounters hoarding in their daily lives and in the course of their work. First responders and public service workers can help tremendously by simply understanding fully what is going on that causes someone to accumulate so many things that they can’t live comfortably anymore. These professionals can accomplish so much by learning to talk in a helpful way to the person with hoarding, and can help by knowing what resources will be useful.
RF: Hoarding is not solely a mental health problem. It has serious implications for public health and safety as well. There are many stakeholders with an investment in resolving hoarding problems, including health department personnel, housing authorities, child and elder service professionals, professional organizers, mental health professionals, family members, and sufferers. Also, first responders (e.g., fire, police, etc.) are often faced with hoarding situations that require immediate attention. The meeting will provide information on the scope and features of hoarding, background on its development, and the newest findings about how to intervene. The workshops and panels available at the Meeting will be invaluable to each of these groups.
Many mental health professionals attended last year’s Hoarding Meeting. What can professionals expect to get out of attending this year’s Hoarding Meeting?
GS: Mental health professionals will learn to assess the situation in a comprehensive way, including comorbid health and mental health problems, and to do a case formulation based on a psychological model that has proven very helpful for understanding why people hoard. These professionals can obtain training in specific treatment strategies, including cognitive and behavioral, as well as motivational methods that are specific to hoarding symptoms.
RF: The Annual Hoarding Meeting includes workshops aimed to educate mental health professionals about the nature and treatment of hoarding. Workshops at the meeting cover how to treat hoarding, reviews of the latest research findings, and “Ask the Experts” panels to provide advice on specific cases. Participants will leave the meeting with a solid understanding of hoarding disorder and will have a good start at understanding how to treat it.
We receive many questions from consumers (those with hoarding disorder, as well as their family members and friends), about attending the Annual Hoarding Meeting. While much of the information presented will be geared towards professionals, how do you think consumers will benefit from attending the Hoarding Meeting?
GS: Consumers are always welcome and encouraged to learn as much about hoarding disorder as they can, so they can better understand their own motivations and challenges and how they can move forward successfully to achieve their own goals. Also, consumers and family members help educate us professionals, so we also learn about what works and what doesn’t and how to improve our treatments and our research.
RF: There are a wide variety of activities and workshops that will benefit sufferers and their loved ones as well. Presentations about the nature of hoarding will help first time attendees understand the behavior. Self-help and support groups are proving helpful, and at the conference, participants can learn about these approaches, and even how to set up “Buried in Treasures” workshops in their community. In addition to the formal presentations, the Annual Hoarding Meeting is an opportunity to make connections with experts in the field, as well as others who suffer or have loved ones who suffer from hoarding. These connections can ease the pain and isolation that so often accompany this problem.
Note from the IOCDF: Individuals with OCD and their family members are welcome to attend all of the Hoarding Meeting, with the exception of the Hoarding Task Force 101 session on Thursday, which is intended solely for professionals.
Hoarding Task Forces have been emerging in many communities around the country as a way to provide a disciplinary and community-based response to hoarding cases that come to public attention. Why is it important for every community to have some type of Hoarding Task Force? How can professionals attending the Hoarding Meeting learn how they can start a Task Force in their own local area?
GS: Hoarding Task Forces have been extremely helpful within communities in many ways, especially when they include professionals from all of the disciplines and contexts in which hoarding problems are identified. They are avenues for training everyone in best practices, and they enable those who are affected to network with each other to come up with the best and most cost-effective solutions. Hoarding is a complex problem that has a ripple effect on daily living for everyone involved. Working together with others is the best way to be most helpful to the professionals and to the consumers.
RF: Hoarding task forces are springing up around the world as a way of responding to hoarding problems in the community. These task forces have members from across the spectrum of public services: health, aging, police, fire, housing, mental health and more. They are dedicated to educating the public about hoarding and finding creative ways to help people in their communities manage hoarding and clutter problems. They are a valuable resource when faced with a difficult hoarding problem. This year, the IOCDF has planned a half-day Pre-Conference Training Session devoted just to hoarding task forces. The training is designed for human service personnel who face hoarding problems, including health departments, housing authorities, code enforcement officials, elder service workers, fire, police, and mental health workers. Participants will learn from the wisdom of Dr. Christiana Bratiotis who has studied the workings of the nearly 100 hoarding task forces in existence around the country. This training is critical for anyone hoping to start a hoarding task force in their community.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the speakers that will be presenting during this year’s Hoarding Meeting?
GS: We will have many people with solid expertise in several different areas who will be speaking at the conference, and I know they will be especially focused on presenting practical strategies to understand and work with hoarding problems. We will have talks on treatment strategies, concurrent problems and how they interact with hoarding, new research on brain functioning, updates on new research findings on cognitive processing aspects, hoarding sufferers’ perspectives on treatment, peer-led workshops, strategies for treating teens and older people with hoarding, and comprehensive intervention methods. These are cutting edge talks by researchers, clinicians, practitioners, and patients about the newest findings in the field. It will be exciting for all!
RF: Speakers at the Annual Hoarding Meeting range from scientists studying hoarding to clinicians who specialize in treating it, and to sufferers struggling with how to manage in the absence of therapy. There are research updates on etiology, drug treatment, cognitive behavior therapy, and much more. This meeting has become a must-attend conference for researchers and clinicians who work on hoarding. You cannot find such a gathering of top notch hoarding researchers anywhere else in the world. If you have a hoarding problem, a loved one with a hoarding problem, if you are a scientist or clinician interested in working on hoarding, or if you are a human services professional dealing with hoarding, this is the meeting for you.