Hoarding as a coping mechanism

Hi, and welcome to our series on Hoarding – practical and psychological support.

In this week’s blog post we will be looking at other mental health problems which were mentioned here: possible causes (and consequences) for hoarding.

Mental health issues aren’t straighforward to spot, and neither is it straightforward to pinpoint their causes, consequences, or what might have triggered particular behaviours or conditions.

Dealing with the topic of hoarding is a sensitive issue, as it’s not just about “the stuff.”

It’s about the trauma, the life story, the way the individual is dealing with their past and current life issues, and how thing might have gotten out of hand and overwhelming for them and their loved ones.

The mental health charity Mind mentions that a person might start hoarding due to another mental health problem, for example:

In these situations, hoarding is usually seen as a symptom and acts as a coping mechanism and is not the main or “precipitating” issue.

Note: Diagnosing is good in some cases, but we work with the individual as a whole. A diagnosis is helpful to frame the work somewhat, but the main issues discussed in the therapeutic work are the issues the client brings. The client leads the work, and this means we are addressing the aspects of hoarding and their current life situation that need to be worked through.

According to Jo Cooke of Hoarding Disorders UK

“Hoarding is a coping mechanism.

There can be a number of reasons, but it’s about filling a void, an emptiness, with stuff.

Bereavement is one of the biggest triggers.

It acts as a sort of nest, a security blanket, a form of emotional insulation.

You can’t just put a skip outside someone’s house and tell them to get rid of stuff.

You need to work in a sensitive way, because it’s very much anxiety-based.”

Dr. Jessica Grisham (University of New South Wales) has found that the link between hoarding behaviour and traumatic events – such as losing a spouse or child – is especially important to consider in individuals exhibiting a late onset of hoarding symptoms.

This is especially important if those symptoms first appeared at the time of the event or shortly thereafter.

It’s also important to note that people react to different events at different paces, so there might be a delayed reaction to a life event that might mean the link to hoarding might not always be as clear as mentioned above.

Still, looking at the immediate aftermath of a life event will still help us start to pin-point a possible cause.

Accumulating “stuff” fills the emotional hole left by the trauma and allows individuals to avoid dealing with the pain.

Later removal of these items can trigger high levels of anxiety, especially if someone else gets rid of these items without the hoarder’s permission.

When discussing their behaviours, many hoarders describe the “rush” they experience when purchasing new items, especially if the item is free or on sale

They can also go to great lengths to justify purchases when questioned by friends or family members.

This reinforces the fact that hoarding as a coping mechanism is a complex issue that requires time and working through different aspects of the hoarding experience so that they are replaced with healthier habits.

It’s important to understand the things mentioned above are very sensitive and personal to each individual hoarder.

Removing items without the person’s permission are a breach of their autonomy – even if we believe their decisions to keep seemingly useless or value-less things aren’t the right ones.

Something I learned during my (Karin) time in care work, was that we can’t stop people from carrying out actions or making decisions just because they might not seem like the best for us, or just because we know the consequences will affect them negatively.

We all take risks every day in our lives. Some result in positive things, others we might regret or want to amend or take back somehow. But we still go ahead and test them out without anyone stopping us.

Hoarders deserve the same courtesy, even if it’s harming them – the work might take a long time, while the hoarder comes to terms with the reality in front of them, and the imminent dangers they might be putting themselves into by not having clear paths to leave the house, or a safe place to sleep or relax, or even do work.

Be patient, as you support your loved one through the hard process of coming up with better coping mechanisms than hoarding and it’s consequences.

If you are living in a similar situation or know anybody that is, please do not hesitate to contact us today so that we can provide you with the support that is needed.

Declutter & donate your unwanted items to Shelter.

You can make a difference to improving someone’s life.

Contact Stacey for more info! 

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Advantages of online counselling: Anonymity

Welcome to the 3rd post of our joint series with Natalia from Chat2Us.

On this post, we will continue with the advantages of online counselling, focusing on Anonymity.

What are the benefits of people feeling anonymous when speaking – or typing – about the things that worry them or that they’re struggling with at the moment?

We might feel comfortable talking to friends and family about our current situation.

We don’t need to be anonymous to do so. They know us better than anyone else!

But sometimes we get to the point where they might not be the best people to talk in depth to about the issues we are going through.

Maybe because we don’t want to worry them, or simply because, let’s face it, we all have problems we deal with on a daily basis.

There’s also the other aspect of not being able to get a neutral response to what we are telling our friends, by no fault of their own.

After all, they’re not our therapist!

This is why seeking the support of a counsellor will help you process your current situation in a way that is limited when talking to a friend.

By all means, use your support system to vent and get help. This is one of the first questions we ask clients when starting therapy.

A good support system in place will help you through the tougher times – and will be there to enjoy the happier ones too!

Now, let’s go back to the anonymity issue…

You might be lucky to feel comfortable in sharing your issues openly, and talking about how you deal with them, with people you know; but you may be like so many others who simply are not as comfortable.

This might be remedied to a greater or lesser extent by seeking one of the many forms of online therapy.

Text-based therapy would provide the most anonymity, and might be ideal for some of us, but others might still prefer to see someone that lives miles away from us, and speak to them via video link.

It’s all about what works best for you!

Choosing to seek therapy online might reduce the chances of you feeling socially stigmatised if you wanted to keep the fact that you’re attending therapy between you and your therapist, and maybe a handful of trusted friends or family.

Unfortunately the social stigma attached to therapy is still alive and well.

Bumping into a friend at the therapist’s waiting room and feeling like you might have to explain why you are there might be an inconvenience and make both of you feel awkward (or it might just be absolutely fine! – there are more and more people accepting the fact that attending therapy is good for us, for many reasons!)

This inconvenience can be solved with online counselling.

You will save your energy for self-care and focusing on the process of therapy you’ve started, saving yourself the potentiality of having to explain why you are going to a counsellor’s office.

Once the social stigma attached to it vanishes, it will eventually reduce the hesitation to seek assistance.

Natalia, Chat2Us

Through online counselling, you can keep your privacy protected and engage easier with your therapist from home, even in the comfort of your pyjamas.

If we look at the different age brackets of people that are seeking therapy, younger clients may prefer the online version as most of them are very good with IT and may embrace the efficiency and convenience of using their devices to look after their mental wellbeing. 

Whereas older clients may prefer to opt for face-to-face therapy, as they might not be too literate with computers (although many do surprise us and are very tech-savvy!).

There are alternatives to online therapy that would also work well for someone that’s not very tech-savvy.

For example, a phone call might be great to retain a degree of anonymity but still access good therapy, with similar benefits to online counselling.

Something to take into account with online therapy, and something that happens more in this type of therapy, is the dis-inhibition effect.

Face-to-face social interaction may get in the way of the client fully opening up in a counselling session.

Some factors that can interfere with the client’s involvement in the therapy process might be paying attention to the therapist’s, and their own, body language; they might also get distracted by room furniture and other aspects of the face-to-face set-up.

Some clients do get inhibited by these things.

Think about autistic clients, for example, where feeling like there is too much sensory stimulation, which might distract them or not allow them to focus on dealing with their emotions, as they might feel overwhelmed by everything else going on around them.

– Karin

Choosing online therapy can therefore allow the person to focus more on the therapy than the surrounding interference.

It will also allow them to talk about sensitive issues quicker and with more detail than they would in a different setting.

Both online and face-to-face therapy are equally effective, but the real question is this: where will you be able to work through your issues the best?

As we are talking about anonymity, the online option seems to keep any interfering factors in check, allowing you to focus on the things that you need to work through.

Finally, we hope that you have gathered from what we’ve said in this post, that online therapy allows for a greater openness for some clients.

The absence of face to face contact can also prompt clients to communicate more openly without concerns for a bias of race, gender, age, size or physical appearance.

This may lead to an increased level of honesty with themselves, and therefore greater and quicker self-disclosure.

This might not be the case for everyone, and we do advise that if you’re more comfortable with face-to-face counselling, then please do follow what’s best for you.

We offer both face to face and online counselling, but seeking to work more online as time goes on.

Until next week…

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Causes and Consequences of Hoarding

Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post, which is a continuation of last week’s post (focusing on the individual).

In this post, we will focus on the possible causes (and consequences) for hoarding and understanding that everybody is different and there could be many reasons as to why the person is hoarding.

Different people will have different explanations for their own experiences and causes for hoarding and it is likely that there is a a combination of reasons.

These reasons are not clear-cut and they might be influencing one another, at different points of the individual’s life.

According to the Mental Health Charity Mind, the following could be the possible causes for hoarding (click on each of the links for more on those particular issues):

According to healthline:

“A person may begin to hoard because they believe an item that they have collected, or are considering collecting, may be valuable or useful at some point in time. They may also connect the item with a person or significant event that they don’t want to forget.”

This quote points towards the person’s reasons for hoarding, which might be something as reasonable as “I might need it later”, even though they don’t really ever use it.

Other times it might be the way a person grieves the loss of a loved one. Collecting items they might have liked or that they link to their loved one is a way to keep them a part of their lives.

Mind mention that, through working with a therapist in sessions, a person may be able to link the start of their hoarding to a stressful event or period in their life, such as:

  • being abused or attacked
  • breaking up with a partner
  • becoming very unwell
  • someone close to you dying
  • feeling extremely lonely.

For some people, experiences like these can also lead to an increase in existing hoarding, when hoarding has already begun.

Also, hoarding might have started with a trauma or another untreated mental health problem, but it might also bring up other mental health issues that will need to be addressed.

Some of these are:

In these situations, hoarding is usually seen as a symptom and acts as a coping mechanism and is not the main diagnosis.

As we mentioned above, it’s not as clear-cut as it seems.

Sometimes hoarding can be the symptom, other times it’s the mental health issue or traumatic event that take precedence.

Listening to the client’s story, paying attention to the triggers of hoarding AND of the mental health issues will help us deal with them in a timely fashion, addressing all the aspects of the individual’s life that need our support, in order to get the client back to living as healthy a life as possible.

With our collaboration, we will focus on understanding the person as an individual, getting to the root cause as to why they are hoarding, through in-depth therapeutic support, as well as providing thorough practical help in order to help to create a safer environment, both physically and mentally.

If you or your loved one need support, don’t hesitate to contact Stacey Sabido from Serenity for You, to start the process.

Declutter & donate your unwanted items to Shelter.

You can make a difference to improving someone’s life.

Contact Stacey for more info! 

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Ditch Traditional Resolutions – Self-Care all the way

ditch New years resolutions.jpg

Hi, and welcome to the last post of 2019!

As you can see from the title, I am going to be challenging society yet again. I love doing that!

It’s so freeing to learn and know that we don’t have to do everything society dictates!

Of course there are things that we must do as law-abiding citizens, but I think it’s safe to say that not complying to coming up with insane New Year’s Resolutions is not one of them.

Book Cover

But before you throw them out the window altogether, think about what you can do this year to live a better life, with better relationships and more happiness and calm.

try these out:

  • spend more time in nature
  • spend time alone
  • spend time with your loved ones
  • disconnect from technology
  • exercise more
  • eat healthier

If we focus on these, then we can definitely have some resolutions for 2020!

In my book, 20 Self-Care Habits, I talk about 20 ways to improve your life and relationships.

If you haven’t got it yet, now is as good a time as any!

Of course, there are other great self-care books out there.

They all have different aspects to them. We are not competing, we are complementing one another.

Some focus more on mindfulness, others on the body, others on the spirit. Mine focuses on the mind.

Through working out what your needs are and how to set clear boundaries, you can achieve calm, happiness within yourself and your relationships.

Book Review Here

I encourage you to get my book, and look for more resources in my blog or others’ that I follow, or you might already be following some amazing self-care coaches and professionals out there.

I look forward to seeing you in the facebook group if you want more support with your self-care and other aspects of your life, in 2020.

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2020. See you on the other side!

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ditch New years resolutions

Hoarding and the importance of focusing on the individual

Hi, and welcome to this week’s post on hoarding.

We’ll be talking about some causes of hoarding (next week’s post) and why focusing on the individual is important.

As a therapist, I (Karin) am aware of the medical model, which focuses on making a diagnosis in order to help the person.

I work with the social model and person-centred model when working with my clients, which works with the whole individual.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes a diagnosis is important – to get people the support they need, like benefits, medication or social services.

There are other times where diagnoses aren’t that helpful.

This is why I work with an awareness of a diagnosis, but don’t put the client in any diagnostic boxes.

Putting the individual in a box will limit the work and lead me to focus only on an aspect of the whole person sitting in front of me.

I will keep the diagnosis in mind, but I won’t make it my first priority when the client is sitting in front of me.

People usually seek counselling with a main reason for consulting, but it turns out that things aren’t always as black and white.

I use the spaghetti bowl analogy.

When a client sits in front of us, overwhelmed by their distress and current situation, there are a lot of layers – or strings of spaghetti – muddled up that need to be explored in order to gain a better understanding, and support the client to get back on track – looking at each spaghetti string and straightening it out, one by one.

Each topic that comes up might seem unrelated, but whatever the client brings to the sessions is linked to the main reason for coming to see me.

After all, it’s all about the same person.

Person-centred work involves providing the client the empathy and acceptance required for them to open up and ask for help.

None of this will happen until and unless the client is ready.

In regard to hoarding, it’s important that the client is involved in the process throughout.

Therapy and/or the de-cluttering process won’t be long-lasting unless the client is ready to do the work.

The reason I emphasise this is that many times, the hoarder’s family or friends are the ones that contact a counsellor or a professional organising service like the one Stacey offers at Serenity for You.

This might be the first step for the client to realise that things have got out of hand.

Or they might be aware of this, but a gentle nudge from family will help them start thinking about getting help.

It might be a hard process – dealing with shame, guilt and difficult emotions that – so working sensitively will be key.

Meeting the client where they are means we will be able to help them, by working at their pace, and enable them to move into a place where they can take charge of their own wellbeing, both through tending to their mental health and their physical environment.

In next week’s post, we will discuss the causes of hoarding that will most likely come up in therapy sessions, and that need to be addressed in order to move forward from hoarding.

Declutter & donate your unwanted items to Shelter.

You can make a difference to improving someone’s life.

Contact Stacey for more info! 

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Blog Post Showcase, Christmas Edition: Loneliness Reflections, by Paula Newman

Hi everyone, and welcome to our Christmas blog, by one of the graduates of my Practical Steps to Blogging Workshop via Onlinevents Experiential Workshops.

Over the Christmas season, we have many emotions. Some of us really enjoy this time of the year, whilst others struggle with everything that this holiday season entails.

In this post, Paula talks to us about her reflections on loneliness…

From relationships to mental health…to how we deal with our inner self and our shame…and finally to how counselling can help us address loneliness.

Click on either of the images, or here, to read the full post.

Whatever you’re doing, however you’re feeling this holiday season, know that you’re not alone.

There are many of us that understand and are here to help.

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Advantages of Online Counselling – No Commute and Free Resources

Hi, and welcome to this week’s post about online counselling and the advantages this brings.

Before we begin, we’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, from Natalia at Chat2Us and Karin at KB Bilingual.

Today we’ll be talking about a couple more advantages we can get from online counselling: saving on travel and additional resources that online therapists provide to their audiences on social media and through their websites.

We’ve had some comments and conversations in social media about our posts already on social media.

Most have been positive, some have been giving us more ideas for blog posts on things we might have missed.

For example, the fact that accessibility relates to the client, but also to the therapist.

There are great therapists out there that have mobility or accessibility issues, or need specific locations to be able to work comfortably and see their clients.

This shouldn’t stop a client from seeing them, as it might be the perfect match to work through their current situations with!

Choosing an online therapist opens up unlimited options as well as advantages!

Embarking on the journey of becoming a therapist is varied and requires patience, perseverance and dedication.

Therapists promote their practices in different ways, and providing valuable resources to their audience is one of the ways we do this.

Therapists nowadays write blog posts to reveal what their interests are, which is important as it might lead the right client to the right therapist (for example, Karin writes about Autism because she works with this client group, and sometimes clients find her through these posts when searching on google).

Blog posts and social media posts also show a bit more about the therapist’s personality, and more importantly, what their therapy approach is.

This certainly gives potential clients out there a rich idea of what they are going to be getting with a particular therapist, and who they are talking to.

Some people could think this is impersonal or cold.

Far from that!

Social media these days is one of the best ways to show your community what you are about, and how you can help potential clients.

Potential clients might like to find some common ground with their therapists before they book a first session.

Feeling like they connect with their potential therapist’s blog post will help them make the decision to contact.

It can be terrifying to make that first contact with an online (or face to face) therapist, so having as much information as possible about what to expect will be reassuring and helpful!

This is also why we’re writing this series: to “de-mystify online counselling”, how it works, and to tell you a bit more about what Chat2Us and KB Bilingual are about, without any expectations on you to contact us.

Just knowing about us might help you or your friends and family in the future, whether through counselling or sharing these blog posts and others that we’ve published on our blog pages.

Although face to face offers many more options in regards to having the therapist in front of the client, and there’s more than verbal language to work with, it can also work against those clients with a shy character, or those that want to keep quiet about attending therapy.

A face to face appointment could make them freeze at the thought of opening up to an unknown person for the first time.

The anonymity and diverse types of online therapy (from text based to video) will provide solace to those that don’t want to talk about in person.

Also, the comfort of your home will create the right environment to let you open up and have a productive therapy process.

You can find out more about accessibility advantages when doing online counselling by reading our post on this very matter.

Another important advantage to consider when you go online is saving in both time and travel expenses.

In these fast times, where we have to juggle between work and family…saving time is a priority.

Take also into account the privacy that booking therapists online gives us.

Bumping into someone you know on your way to therapy, while trying to keep it a private and safe space might not be ideal.

In future messages we will be writing about the different types of online therapy.

For this post, we will just mention other advantages in regards to time: online counselling offers the choice of synchronous or asynchronous sessions.

This means you can have “live” sessions with your therapist via text, audio or video sessions, but that there’s also the alternative of sending text based messages from the bus, the office, the supermarket, or anywhere else, at that moment when you need it, and expect a reply from your therapist within an agreed time frame.

We think it’s wonderful that we live in an age where we can have a variety of options to look after our mental health and wellbeing.

What do you think?

Again, Natalia and Karin would like to wish you all the best during the Christmas break, whether you celebrate or not, and however you celebrate!

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