Contemporary Family Therapy

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 566–581

An Evaluation of an Ambiguous Loss Based Psychoeducational Support Group for Family Members of Persons Who Hoard: A Pilot Study

  • Jennifer M. Sampson
  • Janet R. Yeats
  • Steven M. Harris
Original Paper


The current study is a pilot evaluation of a six-week psychoeducational-support group based in an ambiguous loss framework for family members of people who hoard. Findings suggest that participants who completed the six-week intervention group (N = 8) indicated positive results at the two-month follow up interview, reporting an increased understanding of family members’ hoarding behaviors and their own experiences related to the hoarding behavior and its impact on the family system. Participants also reported that having personal and professional support from others who understand hoarding behavior was helpful to them in lowering psychological distress and improving interactions with their family members.


Hoarding Psychoeducation Support group Hoarding behavior Family Ambiguous loss 


  1. Andrews, G., Tennant, C., Hewson, D. M., & Vaillant, G. E. (1978). Life event stress, social support, coping style, and risk of psychological impairment. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 166(5), 307–316. doi:10.1097/00005053-197805000-00001.
  2. Boss, P. G. (1999). Ambiguous loss: Learning to live with unresolved loss. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Press.Google Scholar
  3. Boss, P. G. (2006). Loss, trauma and resilience. New York, NY: WW Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  4. Chambless, D. L., & Steketee, G. (1999). Expressed emotion and behavior therapy outcome: A prospective study with obsessive compulsive and agoraphobic outpatients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 658–665. doi:10.1037//0022-006X.67.5.658.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chien, W.T., & Norman, I. (2009). The effectiveness and active ingredients of mutual support groups for family caregivers of people with psychotic disorders: a literature review. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 46, 1604–1623. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.04.003.
  6. Fristad, M. A., Gavazzi, S. M., & Soldano, K. W. (1998). Multi-family psychoeducation groups for childhood mood disorders: A program description and preliminary efficacy data. Contemporary Family Therapy, 20(3), 385–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Frost, R. O., & Hartl, T. L. (1996). A cognitive-behavioral model of compulsive hoarding. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 34(4), 341–350. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(95)00071-2.
  8. Frost, R. O., Kyrios, M., McCarthy, K. D., & Matthews, Y. (2007). Self-ambivalence and attachment to possessions. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 21(3), 232–242. doi:10.1891/088983907781494582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fruzzetti, A. E. (1996). Causes and consequences: Individual distress in the context of couple interactions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 1192–1201. doi:10.1037//0022-006X.64.6.1192.Google Scholar
  10. Fruzzetti, A. E., & Boulanger, J. L. (2005). Family involvement in treatment. In J. G. Gunderson & P. D. Hoffman (Eds.), Understanding and treating borderline personality disorder: A guide for professionals and families (pp. 151–164). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.Google Scholar
  11. Iervolino, A. C., Perroud, N., Fullana, M. A., Guipponi, M., Cherkas, L., Collier, D. A., et al. (2009). Prevalence and heritability of compulsive hoarding: A twin study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 166, 1156–1161. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.08121789.Google Scholar
  12. Kellett, S., Greenhalgh, R., Beail, N., & Ridgway, N. (2010). Compulsive hoarding: An interpretive phenomenological analysis. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 38, 141–155. doi:10.1017/S1352465809990622.Google Scholar
  13. Kingree, J., & Thompson, M. (2000). Mutual help groups, perceived status benefits, and well-being: A test with adult children of alcoholics with personal substance abuse problems. American Journal of Community Psychology, 28, 325–342. doi:10.1300/J020v18n02_06.Google Scholar
  14. Leonard, H. L., Swedo, S. E., Lenane, M. C., Rettew, D. C., Hamburger, S. D., Bartko, J. J., et al. (1993). A 2- to 7-year follow-up study of 54 obsessive-compulsive children and adolescents. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 429–439. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820180023003.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mathews, C. A., Nievergels, C. M., Azzam, A., Garrido, H., Chavira, D. A., Wessel, J., et al. (2007). Heritability and clinical features of multigenerational families with obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding. American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B 144(B), 174–182. doi:10.1002/ajmg.b.30370.Google Scholar
  16. Root, M. P. (1991). Persistent, disordered eating as a gender-specific, post-traumatic stress response to sexual assault. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 28(1), 96–102. doi:10.1037/0033-3204.28.1.96.
  17. Runtz, M. & Schallow, J. R. (1997) Social support and coping strategies as mediators of adult adjustment following childhood maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 21, 211–226. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(96)00147-0.
  18. Sampson, J. M. (2012). The lived experiences of family members of persons who compulsively hoard: A qualitative study. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2012.00315.x.
  19. Samuels, J. F., Bienvenu, O. J., Grados, M. A., Cullen, B., Riddle, M. A., Liang, K., et al. (2008). Prevalence and correlates of hoarding behavior in a community-based sample. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46(7), 836–844. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2008.04.004.
  20. Schaefer, C., Coyne, J. C., & Lazarus, R. S. (1981). The health-related functions of social support. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4(4), 381–406. doi:10.1007/BF00846149.Google Scholar
  21. Schultz, R., O’Brien, A., Czaja, S., Ory, M., Norris, R., Martire, L. M., et al. (2002). Dementia caregiver intervention research: In search of clinical significance. The Gerontologist, 42(5), 589–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Steketee, G., & Frost, R. O. (2007). Compulsive hoarding and acquiring: Therapist guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Tolin, D. R., Frost, R. O., & Steketee, G. (2010). A brief interview for assessing compulsive hoarding: The hoarding rating scale-interview. Psychiatry Research, 178(1), 147–152. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2009.05.001.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tolin, D. F., Frost, R. O., Steketee, G., & Fitch, K. E. (2007). Family burden of compulsive hoarding: Results of an internet survey. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46, 334–344. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2007.12.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Tompkins, M. A., & Hartl, T. L. (2009). Digging out: Helping your loved on manage clutter, hoarding, and compulsive acquiring. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.Google Scholar
  26. Ullman, S. E. (1996). Social reactions, coping strategies, and self-blame attributions in adjustment to sexual assault. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 505–526. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1996.tb00319.x.
  27. Wilbram, M., Kellett, S., & Beail, N. (2008). Compulsive hoarding: A qualitative investigation of partner and carer perspectives. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 47, 59–73. doi:10.1348/014466507X240740.Google Scholar
  28. Wills, T. A. (1990). Multiple networks and substance use. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9, 78–90. doi:10.1521/jscp.1990.9.1.78.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer M. Sampson
    • 1
  • Janet R. Yeats
    • 1
  • Steven M. Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.The Hoarding Project, Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Family Social Science DepartmentUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

Personalised recommendations