Hoarder psychologist Dr. Robin Zasio on warning signs you may have a problem

Prepare to be shocked again with a new season of hoarders, the long-running A&E series trying to help people who can\’t let go of even the smallest of possessions.

For the show\’s resident expert, Dr. Robin Zasio, the process goes beyond just cleaning the house, it finds the root of the problems and helps people get their lives back. The licensed clinical psychologist, who has dealt with about 100 cases in the series since the second season, does not find a similar situation. Ahead of the new season premiere, Dr. Zasio sits down with us to shed some light on the warning signs you may be turning into a hoarder and her process of equipping hoarders with the tools to make lasting change.

Has your approach to hoarders changed over the years?

Dr. Robin Zasio: I think early on when we started, there was a real sense of urgency for people to do as much as possible. We wanted to have that house in perfect condition when we left. But I think over time we\’ve seen much more complex cases of really struggling people. We are seeing a lot of trauma and depression which has contributed to their hoarding issues. Basically, I think we\’re really working towards being able to spend more quality time with them. Looking at the etiology of what has led to this problem. Even if the goal is to get their house in order, I think what we\’re finding the most is that people need more time with the therapist to process and talk about the things that led up to the problem. led to the problem then the risk for them to resume that behavior is very high. We don\’t want to see it.


What are some warning signs that you tell people to think about so they don\’t go to the extremes of what we see on the show?

I\’ll start with the question of whether you are seeing an increase in clutter in your home. Are you finding that it\’s more difficult to move around the house because of things? Are you avoiding areas of your home because there are too many things preventing you from engaging in activities you were previously able to do? Do you find that your bed is covered and you sleep on the sofa because it\’s too tiring to move all the things and you don\’t know where to put them all? Are you finding that you\’re doing more food deliveries because the countertops are full, the dishes in the sink, and you\’re feeling overwhelmed with how to navigate to get your home in order? I also think a big thing is that family members or other people important to you start expressing concern about the amount of stuff in your home. Are they starting to get frustrated with the clutter? Are you avoiding having people in your house because you worry about what they think about the clutter?

What\’s a story that stands out to you this season?

There was one that was just heartbreaking. There was a gentleman [Paul] that he was an art dealer and filled his house completely with his purchases. His partner had died and, as a result, he had become a total recluse. Finally, which we don\’t normally do, we had a sidewalk sale of his paintings where people walked by and we rated them. It was really important to him to feel that his artwork was going somewhere rather than going to the landfill. He was a very kind man, very saddened by the death of his partner but very motivated. He knew he couldn\’t honor his home because there was so much stuff. Piles and piles. Even though they had value, he couldn\’t personally value the items because they had simply been shoved into an inaccessible room.

Tell us a little about your process.

All doctors have their own ways of dealing with things. For me, I will get the call and they will send me the photos and story of the person. A little bit about family members and how they interact together. I have not had any contact with the accumulator ahead of time. I haven\’t been to their house before viewers saw me walk in because I feel it\’s important to have the opportunity for the community to see what my reactions and initial thoughts are. I want it to be as genuine as possible. This way I feel we can have a really clear conversation about what led to this issue

What kind of impact do you think this show had?

I will get emails really appreciating the way I work with them and my patience, kindness and understanding. I hope viewers see that there are therapists out there who can help them with the problem. There are treatment techniques that can be helpful in overcoming their problem of living in a healthy, clutter-free area. I think the impact has been profound because there are people who are struggling. Some of the tools and techniques they can use are provided. There are so many people who watch and have compassion for the people they are hoarding. The impact is that people who have had problems with clutter and possibly leading to hoarding behavior can watch the show and go, Oh my god, I can see myself going in that direction. \”We\’re teaching how to stop someone from entering a place where things are out of control.\”

Accumulators previews, May 29, 9/8c, A&E

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