Interview Series: Hoarding Expert: Dr. David F. Tolin

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. David F. Tolin, Psychologist, PhD, ABPP. Dr. Tolin is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety, mood, and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. He uses evidence-based practices for conditions such as hoarding and hoarding disorders. He is board certified in clinical psychology. He is the author of Buried in Treasures. He has been featured on the TV series “The OCD Project,” “Hoarders,” “The Dr. Oz Show,” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Questions & Responses

Has your book, Buried in Treasures, been translated into other languages?

Yes. Buried in Treasures has been translated into Norwegian and Japanese and possibly other languages.

If you are working with someone with hoarding tendencies, do you or a designated professional go to the home?

We used to go into the home. Currently, we rarely go to a client’s home. When we were doing research, we had staff members go in to assess the severity of the clutter in the home.

If you do not go into the home, how do you know the condition of their home?

We use the Clutter/Image Rating Scale and have clients point to the picture which most closely resembles the level of clutter in their home.

Do you find that the clients report accurately?

Yes. If we do not ask a judgmental question regarding the level of clutter; such as ‘is your home very messy or cluttered’ because that could lead to an inaccurate assessment.

What are the most common comorbidity issues?

Major Depression Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity are the most common. Surprisingly, the incidence of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is not that high.

How do you treat hoarding problems?

We use Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. We ask patients to bring in a box or bag of clutter from their home and we talk about it. We also ask the patients to bring in photographs of their home. The patients share before and after pictures with the group. Everyone is very supportive of one another.

Do groups like Clutterers Anonymous or Overcoming Hoarding Together help patients?

These groups may be helpful. As of yet no research has been done to support this theory.

What are your thoughts on the Buried in Treasures support groups?

I’m in favor of these groups. Randy Frost is currently looking at the efficacy of these groups and feels that they may be as effective as therapy.

What do you think about task forces on Compulsive Hoarding – like one in San Francisco?

They are absolutely necessary. Social services agencies need to coordinate to be effective. I’m happy to see more task forces springing up around the country.

Would you like to add anything?

The defining characteristic of the hoarding disorder is an inability to let things go.

You have a list of resources on the back page of your book, are those still valid?

Yes. Some clients have found the following websites to be helpful:

www.ocdfoundation.org/hoarding
www.childrenofhoarders.com
www.napo.net
www.challengingdisorganization.org

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!

Be sure to check back to see who we interview next in this series!

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.

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