Anything that helps us better understand mental health challenges gets a big thumbs up from me. However, the latest episode of “The Hoarder Next Door” made me very frustrated and cross.
Alex is a sweet and gentle soul from Leeds. He hails from an affluent background and was once a successful photographer. His intelligence is evident, as is the fact that he suffered a significant trauma somewhere in his recent past: his out of control need to acquire and hold onto clutter speaks volumes even before he sheds a tear. And he did shed tears; tears that I do not believe he should have been made upset enough to cry, and that is what made me cross about the programme.
There is no need to cause such distress and suffering to free someone of a behaviour such as hoarding.
I know the upset was not intentional. It probably made better TV than if Alex had been robust and gruff, but even I would not suggest his upset was deliberately provoked in any way. I am sure that psychotherapist Stelios Kiosses is excellent at what he does. He seems like a kind and thoughtful man who interacted sensitively with Alex. However his methodology was limited and the result was that a man who was already deeply distressed and aware of his situation was upset without good cause, albeit with good intentions and all sincerity to help him.
By the end of the programme, whilst Alex had cleared some space in his clutter (by removing most of it to the barn, rather than disposing of it), the underlying issues causing his hoarding had not been resolved. That made me even more even more cross. At least if Alex had come through the other side of the upset with resolution, it might have justfied the pain triggered in him. That this is where we left Alex also perpetuates the myth that these disorders are hard to address and take a long time to do so.
That is just not the case if you address the root cause of the issue with the right approach.
Perhaps Chanel 4 is playing it safe by inviting a psychotherapist to treat the hoarder. It is a mainstream choice and Joe Public understands what a psychotherapist is, and it almost sounds like a psychiatrist, you know, the doctors who deal with the crazy people…
Why not instead profile faster and more effective solutions such as those provided in energy medicine? Let Joe Public see and learn for his own use and application what really works. There are fast and powerful modalities that would have alleviated Alex’s distress quickly and easily before asking him to tackle his mountain of clutter – rather than anticipating some breakthrough whilst he sifts through the piles of rubbish, simply displacing it from one place to another. The latter is like asking a man with cataracts to mend a broken watch; the former clears his sight before asking him to look at anything.
Variations of cognitive behavioural therapy have their place in the treatment of mental health issues but it is time to embrace the new paradigm that offers faster and more effective solutions to clear the underlying cause of behaviours such as hoarding. The process does not have to be drawn out and painful. It takes only a few hours (if that) to help someone like Alex shift to a state where he can address his clutter from a place of greater peace and understanding. That is what should have been offered to this dear man before handing him bin bags and asking him to throw things away. I would go so far as to say it is morally wrong to know that such remedies exist and work and not make use of them.
If we fail to adopt these more effective solutions, we fail the very people we are supposed to be helping. By definition they are vulnerable at the point they most need help and it is up to us to help them make good choices. Clear the underlying emotional issues first and then ask them to clear the clutter. It is by far the best way to clear up the mess, in them as well as in their homes.