The Hoarding Handbook: A Guide for Human Service Professionals

The Hoarding Handbook: A Guide for Human Service Professionals

The Hoarding Handbook: A Guide for Human Service Professionals

The Hoarding Handbook: A Guide for Human Service Professionals


Hoarding is a serious, time-consuming, and expensive problem for virtually every community across the United States. First responders often encounter hoarding unexpectedly and are confused about how to resolve the wide range of problems, from public health and fire safety violations, to housing violations, to concern for the welfare of children, elders and animals. Sometimes solutions must be coordinated across several human service disciplines. The first of its kind, this handy guide is a nuts and bolts resource filled with case studies, tips and strategies, and easy-to-use suggestions for professionals responding to hoarding situations. Organized around the common ways hoarding captures the attention of social service providers, this user-friendly guide provides tools to assess the problem, to coordinate and delegate tasks among helping professionals, and to work directly with reluctant hoarders and those affected by the hoarding. Chapters give hands-on guidance and decision trees for who should be involved and what strategies are needed for each case. This book is compassionate and comprehensive, an invaluable reference for social workers and human service providers in a broad range of fields.


My first foray into the world of hoarding occurred nearly 20 years ago when, as part of a research project, I visited severely cluttered homes that were stuffed with treasures. I remember being astonished by the value these objects had for their owners and equally amazed by the openness these people displayed in sharing their stories with me. Not long after that, in a study of hoarding cases investigated by health departments, I received quite a different picture from health officers frustrated and angry with people who, in their minds, not only denied a problem with hoarding but refused to cooperate with orders to correct serious fire and health code violations. Interestingly, a few of these cases were the same people I interviewed earlier.

The experience taught me something about hoarding. There are perspectives about this problem that vary widely. The client or sufferer’s perspective was the first to capture the interest of researchers. What do all these things mean to these people, and how do they view their behavior? Soon after, the therapist’s perspective became a topic of great interest. Informed by the client’s perspective, therapists have developed effective ways of treating hoarding with cognitive-behavioral therapy. The third perspective is that of family members who often grew up amid a cluttered home or must try to ensure that their aging family member has a safe and healthy home. Though limited, there is a growing literature on the impact hoarding has on families.

For each of these perspectives, there is not only research, but books designed to help. Missing from this literature, however, is the perspective from arguably one of the most important groups—human service personnel. Employees of agencies dealing with health, housing, the elderly, child neglect and abuse, fire, police, and even the law view hoarding cases frequently, probably more often than do mental health professionals. Until now, few published resources were available for them.

This is the first book about hoarding designed for human service personnel. It provides a comprehensive and detailed resource for all agency . . .

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