Profs. Muroff & Keefe Deliver New Blended Hoarding Training to Boston City Employees

Photo by Centre for Ageing Better on Unsplash

Hoarding disorder is a serious behavioral issue that affects millions of individuals. However, it wasn’t well understood until the 1990s when researchers including Gail Steketee, the former dean of Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW), led systematic studies that dispelled early conceptions of the condition. Since then, research on hoarding has grown significantly thanks to scholars like Jordana Muroff, an associate professor at BUSSW who leads the school’s Hoarding Research Team alongside Steketee.

In order to raise awareness and understanding about the complex disorder, Prof. Muroff and BUSSW colleague Bronwyn Keefe teamed up to launch an innovative training program that equips professionals from a wide range of fields to support people with hoarding disorders. The training combines an online course, “Hoarding Disorder in Older Adults – delivered through Prof. Keefe’s Center for Aging and Disability Education and Research (CADER’s) – with an in-person skill-building session led by Muroff. The course focuses on older adults, providing important guidance on assessment and intervention. It also includes information about legal and ethical issues that city employees may encounter when working with individuals with hoarding behavior.

Recently, Muroff and Keefe brought their training to 70 City of Boston employees who encounter hoarding in their work. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Noting the increase in cases of hoarding, participants called the information provided “a wonderful tool,” and said they had a better understanding of available resources and what to say and not say. They also reported improved ability to assess and support people with hoarding disorder, increased sensitivity and empathy, and a changed overall perception of the disorder. They also noted that hoarding interventions are a team effort, and said information provided in the training about other professions’ roles would be instrumental in enabling them to provide effective support.

In an article on Nepsy about interventions for hoarding and the new blended hoarding course, Muroff says that with two to five percent of our population meeting clinical criteria for hoarding behavior, “there is great demand for more practitioners in this field that are training to work with this mental health challenge.”

“Hoarding hits so many domains – housing, public health, mental health, aging, hospitals,” says Muroff. “These trainings allow them to work together across silos and de-stigmatize hoarding.”

“The demand for [training] has been increasing as social workers, health workers and others are returning to home visits post-Covid and recognizing hoarding as a growing problem,” says Keefe. While capacity remains an issue, more agencies are recognizing the need to address hoarding comprehensively and with more sensitivity.

Muroff and Keefe plan to continue increasing the availability of this blended training and disseminate it nationwide.

Jordana Muroff, PhD, is an associate professor and chair of the clinical practice department at BUSSW. An expert in hoarding, Muroff is the author of “Group Treatment for Hoarding Disorder: Therapist Guide” (Oxford University Press, 2014) and has published research in numerous top-tier journals including the American Journal of Public Health and Depression and Anxiety. She is passionate about developing empirically supported mental health interventions based in strong community collaborations and is particularly interested in health technology innovations that address inequities, stigma and structural oppression.

Bronwyn Keefe, PhD, is a research assistant professor and associate dean of workforce and professional development at BUSSW, and director of the school’s Network for Professional Education and its Center for Aging and Disability Education and Research (CADER) which she founded in 2002. Through CADER, Keefe has delivered trainings in aging and disability care to more than 25,000 practitioners and 500 community-based agencies and state organizations. She is president of the board for the Massachusetts Gerontology Association and was recently named a Tideswell Emerging Leader in Aging Scholar by UCSF.

Learn More About the Training:
Hoarding Disorder in Older Adults