Interview Series: Hoarding Expert; Satwant Singh
Over the next few months, we will be interviewing professionals who work with the hoarding population. We are asking them to share their insight on people who hoard and people who think they have the hoarding disorder.
We recently interviewed Dr.Satwant Singh RN, MSc DPsych. Satwant is a Nurse Consultant, cognitive Behavioral Therapist and Mental Health and Clinical Lead. He facilitates the London Hoarding Treatment Group. He is accredited as a therapist, trainer, and supervisor by the British Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies. Satwant set up the first innovative primary care CBT service in East London in 2001. He provides teaching and training both nationally and internationally.
Questions & Responses
We saw on your website that you are part of the London Hoarding Treatment Group. Would you please tell us about it?
The London Hoarding Treatment Group began in 2005. It meets once a month and is open to individuals who are self-diagnosed with a hoarding problem. It is also open to other family members. The group often has people pop in from Australia and the Netherlands. This group has become a model for other peer run support groups.
This group is very creative because the people involved can critique their own photos. The London Hoarding Treatment Group was the basis for our book Overcoming Hoarding: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques.
How is the treatment group set up?
The treatment group has a once a month meeting and everyone has a buddy or accountability partner. Sometimes the buddy can be ruthless with their critique but its OK because they are operating on the same playing field. The critique is accepted as helpful and not negative.
Do people accurately report the severity of their hoard?
No, they tend to overreport. They tend to say it’s “so awful.” Then I am happy to go in and say “No, it’s not so bad.”
How does the system work?
People bring in pictures of their home and they talk about the picture. They answer questions ie. How does this picture make you feel? How would you want it to be different? What impact has it had on your relationships? The picture provides an emotional distance from the “stuff”. They can unpack the hoard by talking through the picture. These peer run support groups raise awareness for other professionals as well.
What kind of funding do you have?
There is no funding, but my employer allows us to use his space for the meetings and I give my time.
Do you go into people’s homes to see the level of the hoard yourself?
Sometimes, if the home is nearby or convenient and I have been invited.
What tools do you use to determine the level of clutter in the home?
We use the Clutter Image Rating Scale and the pictures they bring in of their home. We also use the H.O.A.R.D. acronym tool. This tool has five questions.
H. Tell me what HAPPENED in this picture.
O. What would you like to OVERCOME and what are your goals?
A. Can you imagine life without ALL of this stuff?
R. How is your life and RELATIONSHIPS affected by this problem.
D. What would you like to DO about it?
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of working with people challenged by the hoarding disorder?
Be aware that you are working with individuals that have a problem – not problem individuals.
Don’t use the word “hoarders”. Instead use words like “a person with clutter issues.” It becomes problematic if you don’t see the person but only the problem and this happens when the word “hoarder” is used. It’s important to treat the person with respect. Never ask the question “why?” because that implies judgement, but instead ask them to tell you the story and engage the person in conversation. There is not much training available. Instead of learning about dealing with the hoard, one needs to learn about how to build the relationship.
Do you have a shareable list of resources for people challenged by hoarding and their families?
Look into HoardingUK . They do a series of workshops in the UK that are open to people with hoarding issues and are also open to professionals.
Also, our book Overcoming Hoarding: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques is written in a user-friendly way while based on cognitive therapy.
Thank you very much for this fabulous time spent together learning more about the work you do.
If you are or if you know a professional who works with people with hoarding tendencies, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’d love the opportunity to talk with you, too!
Please check back with us to see who we interview next!
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people challenged by ADD, Hoarding, and Chronic Disorganization.
Jonda S. Beattie is a Professional Organizer and owner of Time Space Organization based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of three books as well as a retired special education teacher, she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing, virtual organizing, and moderates a Zone Plan Teleclass for those who prefer to work on their own with organizational coaching.