Volunteers’ experiences of helping hoarders and hoarders’ experiences of being helped

Kirsty Ryninks, James Gregory

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


IntroductionCompulsive hoarding is widely thought of as difficult to work with and evidence suggests that services face substantial challenges in treating clients (Turner, Steketee & Nauth, 2010). Studies repeatedly report modest successes and high rates of drop out when working with this client group (Steketee & Frost, 2007). It is important to understand the factors that act as barriers and facilitators in supporting people with compulsive hoarding, but few studies have examined this. The present study aimed to qualitatively explore the experiences of compulsive hoarders and volunteer helpers within the context of a UK-based charity providing support to older adults with hoarding difficulties.

A total of seven volunteers and four clients were recruited and interviewed using a semi-structured interview, designed to explore experiences of providing and receiving help. All clients self-identified that they had a problem accumulating and saving numerous possessions for which they had never previously sought professional help. The Clutter Image Rating Scale (CIRS; Frost, Steketee, Tolin & Renaud, 2008) was used to confirm presence of hoarding difficulties. Volunteers had worked in the project for an average of 11 months (ranging from 4 to 24 months) and all had completed training as part of their induction. Qualitative analysis of the interview data was performed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis.

ResultsFour superordinate discrete, but interacting themes were identified. The relationship that formed between client and volunteer was crucial in providing a trusting foundation from which clients felt able to move forward. Volunteers provided a space for clients to talk, and reported that appropriate self-disclosure helped to build a relationship. The informal and ‘non-professional’ status of volunteers enabled clients to take the lead and feel more in control of the therapeutic process. Volunteer flexibility and lack of time constraints were also seen as important and contributed to clients ‘making space’ in their lives and in their homes. The support from the volunteers enabled clients to ‘live life again’ and created a domino effect, bringing about improvements in other areas of both of their lives. A number of challenges were also identified.
Discussion and ConclusionThis study provides a detailed exploration of volunteers’ experiences of helping hoarders and hoarders’ experiences of being helped. The findings will be discussed in relation to the training of health professionals to work with people with hoarding difficulties and the implications of the findings for treatment approaches and service provision.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2018
EventBABCP Conference - University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Duration: 17 Jul 201818 Jul 2018


ConferenceBABCP Conference


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