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Effects of compulsive hoarding and the search for help as experienced by one family member and one researcher

Buescher, Timothy Paul


Timothy Paul Buescher


Judith Dyson

Fiona Cowdell


This thesis reports a shared journey within a personal one. I intended to understand help-seeking motivation in family members of compulsive hoarders. I learned something about myself. An integrative review of family experience of hoarding revealed themes of quality of life; shattered families; rallying around and lack of support, which was the central theme. This begged the question:

What sources of help do family members of compulsive hoarders seek and why?

A family-group collaborative design was proposed but developments in recruitment produced a situation of recruiting and being recruited simultaneously by a co-researcher expert by experience engaged in help-seeking. Negotiations around the collaborative workings of the project produced a cycle of action and reflection similar to co-operative inquiry. Analysis consisted of a free association exercise conducted by both co-researchers and dialogical narrative analysis by me alone. Results were triangulated with field notes including reports of interviews with other family members. Findings from these exercises included a focus on my co-researcher’s role within the family and within the research team; identity; relationships within and outwith the family and tolerance of uncertainty.

My co-researcher’s prolonged and wide-ranging help-seeking led to her discovering that hoarding had been included in the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) (DSM-5), and this opened the possibility of treatment. Initially stating she preferred to focus on large scale projects as a way of avoiding her family situation, exploration of the experience from a different perspective unexpectedly allowed for a re-appraisal of the situation and its effects despite little change in circumstances. “The answer is in the exploration”, as Tracy put it during analysis.

At the end of this project, I found myself not ready to let go. I also found myself unsure about my own identity. I explore why through autoethnographic writing, examining how the same processes which inadvertently benefited my co-researcher helped me to develop a new story for myself in relation to my status as a registered mental health nurse transitioning from psychosocial practitioner to mental health nurse academic.

Building on our work together, this work has produced further arguments for the use of autoethnographic methods in mental health research and has made a case for flattened structures and slow approaches in research relationships and by extension in other mental health work. In addition, we have uncovered a helpful bespoke response to compulsive hoarding in a relative which employs aspects of research and therapy.

In considering these issues I suggest a model for mental health nurse practice, education and research which understands evidence-based practice as a situated, narrative exercise with a broad range of influences from other disciplines and a requirement to proceed from a critical standpoint.


Buescher, T. P. (2018). Effects of compulsive hoarding and the search for help as experienced by one family member and one researcher. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 21, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Health studies
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Health Studies, The University of Hull
Award Date May 1, 2018


Thesis (4.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2018 Buescher, Timothy Paul. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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