Interview Series: Hoarding Expert: Sherry Pruitt
Updated: Apr 3
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.
Recently, we interviewed Sheryl K. Pruitt, M.Ed., ET/P. Ms. Pruitt is the Clinical Director of Parkaire Consultants in Atlanta, Georgia. She founded this clinic to serve neurologically impaired individuals. Ms. Pruitt is an author and speaker who educates children, adolescents and adults about neurological disorders and the coping skills needed to remediate deficit areas caused by these disorders. She speaks locally, nationally, and internationally on neurological disorders.
In the interest of full disclosure, Diane is a consultant at Parkaire Consultants as the professional organizer to whom the other consultants refer.
Questions & Responses:
If you are working with someone with the hoarding tendencies, do you or a designated professional go to the home?
I do not go to the home but we refer to Diane who does go to the home.
If not, how do you verify the level of the hoard?
I use Randy Frost’s Clutter Image Rating Scale. I find that to be very reliable and helps us know when to refer.
What percentage of the people you see at Parkaire Consultants do you suspect of having hoarding tendencies?
About half of the people we see with OCD and Executive Dysfunction here at Parkaire probably have some hoarding tendencies.
What are common co-occurring disorders that you find with the Hoarding Disorder? OCD, ADHD, SAD, GAD, MDD?
Hoarding used to be considered a sub-set of OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That is often accompanied with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and problems with Executive Functioning skills. All of these are genetic, neurological disorders.
People who hoard often have a type of OCD which I refer to as the ‘Moral Policeman’ or “Just Right” OCD. Something is either right or it’s wrong. There is no in-between. They can get stuck not knowing the right thing to do. What is the right way to dispose of something or the right place to put something? When they don’t have a definitive answer, they do nothing which adds to the piles of things.
They can also have Tourette Syndrome (TS). The TS portrayed on television is only about 3% of the TS population. Usually it is evidenced as least two muscle tics and at least one vocal tic that have been present at anytime for more than twelve months.
Other common co-morbid disorders are other anxiety disorders as well as mood disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.
We also see social, learning and memory problems in this population.
How do you treat hoarding problems?
Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERPT) and other therapies are used for the co-morbids and our hoarding specialist directs the intervention for the hoarding. We also refer to a psychiatrist for the appropriate treatment of some of the co-morbid disorders.
What do you think about support groups like Clutterers Anonymous or Overcoming Hoarding Together?
Groups like these are great because they demonstrate to the participants in the group that they are not alone. Sure, everyone has their own story but there are similarities. Participants in the group can empathize in ways that people who are not living in such devastating circumstances cannot.
Do you think online support groups like the Facebook Clutter-Hoarding Support Group are beneficial?
Yes. For the same reasons as I just gave. Of course, in an online group you can remain somewhat anonymous. You are, therefore, not as vulnerable as when you attend an in-person support group and it might be a good option.
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!
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.