Please remind me never to watch a TV show about hoarders again. Besides the label itself, hoarder (which sounds unsympathetic at best and wholly shameful at worst), there’s something really wrong with these genuinely well-intended shows.

The worst part about hoarder shows isn’t the quiet shock of seeing how deeply stuck people who suffer from hoarding are (they’re not necessarily more stuck than anyone else with a big issue to heal, their stuckness is just more visible). The worst part is when the shows includes a home make-over.

First, there’s the two-day cleaning crew that removes hundreds of bags of trash and rips out the carpets (both typically at the protest of the person who lives there).

Then comes the shiny new GE appliances from the good people at Sears.

Next, add the almost-famous interior decorator who looks directly into the camera and explains how chevron patterns are easy to paint on any wall and add fresh dimension to small spaces.

Finally, there’s the actual tenant of the home, who goes from being lost in the emotional rubble (figuratively and clearly literally) to being told that everything is okay because someone else cleaned up their mess. A year later, their house is back to the way it was because, while everything was changed, nothing was healed.

Healing and changing are not always mutually exclusive, but they can be. The relationship between healing and changing is directly related to a simple truth I’ve observed over years of working as a psychotherapist, as well as from my own personal development:

You can change without healing, but you can’t heal without changing.

That’s the great part about really doing the work to heal something. If you genuinely address what’s wrong, what’s truly hurting you, what the real reason is that keeps you repeating the patterns that you can only ever seem to change temporarily — if you really address what needs to be healed internally instead of what you’d like to see change externally, the change happens naturally.

Change born from healing is the best kind because it feels effortless, inspired — and it actually lasts.

One of my absolute most *favorite* things about working with people who do the work to heal is hearing about the subsequent spontaneous changes that often begin to pop up naturally.

These ostensibly random little bubbles of change that surface often come as a surprise to the person who is in the midst of the healing process; they’re a surprise because the person isn’t necessarily working on them:

“You know it’s weird, I started running outside again last weekend–I kind of just felt like it. I haven’t done that in years..”

“I randomly just got the urge to move all my furniture around, organize a bit, and hang a couple things up yesterday, isn’t that funny?”

“When I saw his text, I noticed I didn’t react to it in the same way that I always do– I just felt differently this time. I kind of just didn’t care, it was a little strange actually…”

When you really work to address the invisible (i.e. emotional) parts of your life that need your attention, the visible (i.e. behavioral) parts so often work themselves out naturally.

Don’t know how to cut through to the heart of the matter and begin to heal? That’s perfectly fine.

It’s okay (and wildly common) to not know how to even begin to deal with the major stuff that you’re aware you need to address. In fact, just being aware of what you need to change is a substantial start in and of itself.

It’s not about knowing how everything is going to get done before you even start, it’s about starting anyway.

Katherine Schafler is an NYC-based psychotherapist, writer and speaker. For more of her work, join her newsletter community, read her blog, or follow her on Instagram.

Originally published at on July 17, 2016.

Originally published at


  • Katherine Schafler

    NYC-based psychotherapist, writer and speaker.

    Katherine earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology at UC Berkeley before obtaining two Masters from Columbia University, one focused on clinical assessment and the other on psychological counseling. Additionally, she completed post-graduate training and certification at the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy in NYC.