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Five Stages of Change for Hoarders

“The moment you can visualize being free from the things that hold you back, you have indeed begun to set yourself free.”—Unknown


The following information came from a private online support group for Hoarders called H-C, and is being used with their permission. This information was adapted for H-C from: James Claiborn Ph.D., Cherry Pedrick R.N., The Habit Change Workbook: http://www.ohiovalley.org/abuse/change.htm, http://www.ocfoundation.org/1005/m120a_003.htm, http://www.habitsmart.com/motivate.htm

5 Stages of Change for Compulsive Hoarding

People can and do change, either by themselves or with the help of therapy, either self directed or with the assistance of a therapist. James Prochaska, Ph.D, and his collegues have spent years studying and researching how people change and they have determined that people change in stages.
They define these stages as






The Five Stages of Change* for compulsive hoarding are:


In this stage, you are essentially unaware that a problem exists and, as a result, have no intention of changing your behavior in the foreseeable future. However, persons close to you may be aware of the existence of a problem. If you are in treatment, it is normally only as a result of coercion by someone in your environment (e.g., family insistence, employer requirement, or legal mandate). The idea of change is not seriously considered.

You are becoming aware that a problem exists; you may be considering behavior change but have not made a commitment, such as setting a goal. You often are weighing the pros and cons of the compulsive behavior, and may be either over-estimating the pros or under-estimating the cons. Perhaps you’ve read a great deal on the subject. Yet none of this information seems to have made any difference. The habit endures.

It is very easy to miss out on a brief window of opportunity, a moment in which you are saying to yourself, “I’ve had it! No more of this! I’m doing something about this right now!” You are very vulnerable to old influences at this time, both external pressures and convincing data from within. It is imperative to tip the scale of ambivalence in order to move from contemplation to determination/preparation and action.

In this stage, you have the intention to change but have not established a specific goal. In the Preparation stage, you often reduce compulsive behavior, but not enough to have a qualitative effect on your life.

This is a transition period between shifting the balance in favor of change and getting things moving in that direction. You may have fleeting moments of determination that swiftly vanish when all of the horrors involved come back into awareness. Determination will lead directly into action if you have thoroughly considered all aspects of your compulsive problem realistically, if you have begun to modify expectancies and have established a goal what is conducive to your individual needs and values. Your goals must be consistent with your capabilities, your values, your needs.

Simply expressing a desire to change is not the same thing as action, and until you have started a clear program, you should be considered to be in the Preparation Stage. It is important to remember that “paying lip service” to the problem is not the same as actively working to change the problem. In the Action Stage, you are actively taking steps to reduce your Compulsive Hoarding. You are making changes in your behavior and are altering your environment in order to attain your goals.
In this stage, you strive to consolidate the gains made during the Action stage, in particular to prevent relapse in your compulsive behavior. Prochaska and colleagues define maintenance as being beyond six months of having successfully attained a desired change in order to be considered in the Maintenance versus the Action stage.

For those of you who are in the pre-contemplation, contemplation or perhaps even the preparation stages, continue to read everything you can get your hands on about compulsive hoarding. The best place to start is the (IOCD-Hoarding Website).

It may take some time to educate yourself about the disorder, and to deal with your ambivalent feelings about change and all your “stuff”. It will take as long as it takes to explore the pros and cons of change. It may take some time, but this is an integral part of the process of change.

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