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Cooper and Violet Force a Hoarder to Throw Stuff Out In Order to Keep Her Son!
By Moira McMahon, Researcher
In episode 311, Another Second Chance, Cooper and Violet push a hoarder to her breaking point.
Cooper's patient, Cody, needs his cast removed. Cooper pays him a visit to find that Cody's house is a dump. Piles of clothing and broken toys, old furniture, food wrappers and garbage fill the rooms. There's hardly space to move.
Cody's mother, Andrea, can't throw anything away. It's more than being disorganized or not getting around to bringing things to Goodwill. She has a mental illness that brings unbearable anxiety at the thought of removing an object from her home. No one is sure what triggers hoarding but the condition is sometimes triggered after someone suffers a loss. The items in the home become a substitute for the love that's gone.
Cooper believes Andrea's home is no longer a safe environment for her child. But is taking away her son really the solution? How does forcing Cody away from his mother benefit anyone?
Violet believes that treatment is possible. Maybe Andrea will never win a 'best housekeeping' award, but she's not beyond help. Under the gun of a DCFS investigation, Violet pushes Andrea to talk about the loss of her ex-husband. But it turns out that Andrea also had a daughter who died, too. Andrea has been harboring great guilt for divorcing her husband. She believes this led to her daughter and ex-husband being killed in a car accident during a weekend visit. Her response is to never throw anything away, ever again.
Faced with the DCFS investigation, Andrea has to push through her pain to keep her son. Her love for Cody gives her the courage to throw the first piece of trash out the window. It's a powerful start. As Andrea removes more old and broken items, she is reclaiming her home and her mental health.
This time, Cooper's use of intimidation and Violet's therapeutic urging yielded positive results.
But should you threaten loss of custody to motivate a change in behavior in a mentally ill parent?
Is living in a messy house really child abuse?
What would YOU do?