Mental Health

Hoarding: A Harm Reduction Approach

What happens when that collection of household items builds up and takes over a major part of one’s life? What happens when the clutter is too much for one to handle and causes excess stress and anxiety? It might be time to consider these stressors a little more carefully as they are indicators of hoarding.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-V), describes hoarding disorder as “the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and to distress associated with discarding them.”

This learning event is intended to demystify the disorder for all those affected by it (patients, caregivers, family and friends). Participants will learn how to appropriately communicate with their loved one afflicted with the disorder from a harm reduction perspective. They will discover the value of building a trusting relationship and better understanding of how individuals perceive their hoarding behaviour vs. how we perceive hoarding behaviour.

These are the main points that will be discussed during the event:

  • The nature of hoarding behaviour: what are the biological, social and psychological predispositions;
  • Setting realistic goals to reduce risk and improve safety;
  • Harm reduction principles to create a successful plan;
  • Community resources you and your loved ones can tap into.

There will be a question period at the end of the presentation.

  1. Trudy’s background is in Mental Health and Addictions, she began her career in community services providing support and counselling to vulnerable individuals at high risk from a Harm Reduction and client centered approach. Serving youth to seniors to help maintain a healthy and safe lifestyle and home environment with a focus on securing housing. Trudy has been working with VHA Home HealthCare since 2013, where she began and managed the Volunteer Hoarding Support Program, training new volunteers and carrying a case load of clients offering her expertise and insight in supporting both the volunteers and individuals challenged with hoarding behaviors through the VHA Home HealthCare Community Support Program. Currently, Trudy is the Toronto Hoarding Support Services Network Lead Facilitator, who manages and oversees the Toronto Hoarding Support Program (THSSN), offering her expertise and wealth of knowledge to the mental health community. The goal of this program is to provide clients with a trained Hoarding Support Coach working alongside clients to create a healthy and safe home environment and avert homelessness. This program is funded through the City of Toronto Housing and Stabilization. Trudy also provides training focused on hoarding and mental health to many other professionals throughout the greater Toronto area. As the lead facilitator of the THSSN she provides training to the members of the Network as well as the greater community of Toronto. Trudy recognizes that to live, give and receive is in balance with the holistic values of human nature. Healing begins with every new journey, never too late to learn, change and grow.

  1. Alda is an Occupational Therapist and Mental Health Consult for VHA's Hoarding Support Programs and the Toronto Hoarding Support Services Network. She is passionate about mental health and best practices and has over 10 years of experience providing community mental health services to culturally diverse clients. Alda is also a strong proponent of the Harm Reduction approach and finds working with individuals with hoarding behaviours very rewarding. In addition to her clinical work Alda also conducts training workshops on Hoarding.