Life-Changing therapy program for teens addicted to porn

STAR Guides wilderness was recently featured on Innovations television with Ed Begley Jr. which plays in Discovery Channel, Lifetime and CNN.  STAR Guides is a specialized outdoor youth treatment program that helps teens and young adults who are addicted to pornography learn to overcome their addiction.

STAR Guides is an outpatient treatment program designed for youth and young adults striving to conquer pornography and sexual addiction. When problems related to pornography addiction and other unwanted sexual behaviors arise, STAR Guides provides families with navigation through these challenges. Learn more at

Unique in its approach of using wilderness and outdoor living for breaking this difficult addiction, the STAR Guides therapists talk about why wilderness therapy is so effective for disrupting porn, sex and technology addictions among today's teens.

Change your child's life: Summer program for teen pornography addiction

Since its creation, The Youth Pornography Addiction Center has learned three important facts about teen pornography addiction as we have worked with youth and their families from all parts of the world who are battling porn addiction:

1. The pornography addiction almost always begins in the late child or early adolescent years.


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2. Pornography addiction leads to more developmental issues and is a gateway into a variety of serious sexual, legal, relational and mental health problems.

3. Most addicted children and teens can't beat the addiction without help.


We have also learned that sometimes outpatient counseling is not enough to break the addiction, particularly when the teen's behaviors begin to pose a safety risk to themselves our to others.  For situaitons such as these, we are excited to let you know about our newest program STAR Guides Wilderness.


This program provides parents with a life-changing treatment option when outpatient counseling is not sufficient to deal with the problems including:


-When the addiction becomes a risk to the teen’s safety.

-When the addiction becomes a risk to others’ safety.

-When outpatient treatment fails.

-When the youth is resistant to treatment.

Watch this short video clip to learn more about the Star Guides Wilderness Therapy Program or call us at 800.584.4629! 

Programs for teen porn addictions

Are there programs for teen pornography addictions?

Treatment programs for teen sexual compulsive behaviors such as porn or masturbation addiction are designed to help the youth overcome compulsions that are very similar to drug and alcohol addictions. However, “process addictions” as they are often referred to, are treated differently as they involve processes that are normal for humans to participate in such as sexual activity.  The addiction emerges when the teen develops a compulsion to repeat the act until it begins to impede their emotional development as it becomes a form of coping with life stresses and begins to interfere with their relationships and day-to-day functioning.  Unfortunately, due to the abundance of internet pornography teens are beginning to develop sexual addictions at younger and younger ages wherein participation in sexual behaviors is harmful to their development. Treating process addictions such as pornography or cyber-sexual addiction requires a different approach than drug addiction recovery.  Programs for treating teen pornography addiction range from outpatient treatment such as the Mending The Armor program to intense wilderness therapy experiences such as STAR Guides wilderness

What is porn addiction?

Porn addiction is a sex addiction that is specific to viewing pornography.  It is the compulsion to view pornographic material and to masturbate to it with little regard to financial, social and other obligations. Like a true addiction, the pornography consumes a teens thoughts and acations.  Addicted youth will spend hours viewing and masturbating to porn usually in secret and hidden from the knowledge of their parents. The stimulation provides a pleasure that is similiar to the high that drug addicts experience.  Teen porn addicts feel driven to this compulsive behavior to obtain that pleasure again and again. However, each time, the pleasure becomes harder to achieve, leading to more masturbation and porn to achieve the desired euphoria.

How do you treat teen porn addiction?

For most teens addicted to porn, there is typically an underlying psychological issue that drives the porn addiction. In some cases, youth are victims of childhood abuses, in other cases youth were exposed to pornography at a very early age. Due to the ease of access to pornography, some youth simply become addicted out of curiosity.  

Treatment for porn addiction begins with a comprehensive psycho-sexual assessment to determine the underlying conditions driving the addiction.  This assessment provides parents with a guide for the treatment needs of the addicted teen.  Typically, the recommendations for treatment include participation in psychotherapy services in the form of individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy sessions. These sessions may take quite some time to complete. For many teens, learning to manage this addiction can take several months and a great deal of hard work.  The STAR Guides and Mending The Armor programs utilize a combination of these therapies with a particular focus on group therapy. Group therapy is especially helpful to the teen porn addict, as it reverses the solitary nature of that addiction. The compulsion to view porn and masturbate is a private, solo act. In group treatment, the act is no longer personal. This helps tremendously in healing.

Whether the youth is treated in a wilderness or outpatient setting, the mental health portion of porn addiction recovery is the most important and cannot be duplicated without the help of a professional.

The goal of pornography addiction recovery is to teach the teen to survive in a world where sex is a normal function, without developing a dependency on sexual behaviors for emotional coping. This means learning control and self-discipline over the addiction through lifestyle changes and development of healthy coping skills to help the young addict stay on the road to recovery.

What is the typical profile of a STAR Guides wilderness student?

A common questions parents ask when searching for a treatment program for their teen is “what kind of kids will he be around while in the program?”

STAR Guides is unique in that it is the only wilderness therapy program in the country that specializes exclusively in the assessment and treatment of pornography, sexual addiction and maladaptive sexual issues.   Contrary to the stereotype that some hold regarding these issues, the youth who come to STAR Guides are actually good young men.  They are respectful, caring teens and young adults who want to be successful in life, but are struggling with some form of a sexual compulsive behavior that has resulted in the development of an addiction that have been unable to overcome.  In some cases, the addiction has led to a poor choice to act out sexually in an illegal manner.  

Youth who attend our program have not been involved in gangs, drugs or a criminal lifestyle.  Rather, the typical profile can be described as youth who have attempted to hide or conceal problematic sexual behaviors due to shame and guilt about these issues.   Most are struggling with emotional and mental scars that stem from feelings of deep shame and guilt because of their sexual problems that has so often been concealed and hidden from others.  Most are struggling to develop self-confidence and a belief that they can overcome their addictions and achieve a happy life as an adult.  The underlying feelings of inadequacy, depression, self-loathing and shame often undermine the youth’s ability to achieve success in other areas of life which has led to the need for participation in a treatment program.

The element that ties all of our students together is the absolute need that each has to develop an identity based on successfully managing the emotional demands of their life without the use of a dependency on sexual behaviors.  This is what the STAR Guides experience provides to them—an “in vivo” experience  of facing the most demanding challenge of their life and through great effort,  to develop coping skills and confidence to  complete the program .  

STAR Guides Wilderness: Navigation to Healthy Sexuality

Therapy Associates is thrilled to announce that STAR Guides Wilderness has been officially licensed by the State of Utah as an Outdoor Youth Treatment program. 

The first of its kind nationally,  the program provides teens and young adults with a high impact, life-changing  therapeutic wilderness experience in the heart of the majestic red rock of the high desert of Southern Utah.  STAR Guides is the ideal intervention for individuals needing to learn to manage problematic sexual behaviors that they have been unable to manage previously.  The intervention includes a comprehensive psycho-sexual evaluation and a sexual-specific treatment orientation in a wilderness setting.

The program founders Dan Sanderson, Matt Bulkley and Kena Frey share a strong belief that the wilderness is the ideal venue for treating sexual behavior problems and creates an impact on young lives far greater than what other forms of treatment can provide.  The program provides families with navigation through these challenges.  Regardless of past behaviors, the founders believe that all youth can learn to achieve healthy sexuality.

Research suggests that for many, sexual problematic behavior first begins during the adolescent years.  The STAR Guides program helps youth to deal with these problems while they are still young.  

Treatment not just prevention efforts needed for teen pornography problem

 Over the past year, we have had the good fortune of visiting with parents, teens and professionals from around the country regarding the topic of pornography use among youth.  We have been encouraged by the level of concern expressed by many of those with whom we have interacted.  While most are greatly concerned about the issue and agree that prevention efforts among our youth are vital, those young people who are struggling with addiction issues relating to pornography continue to remain in the shadows.  While research is limited regarding the number of teens addicted to pornography, it does seem apparent to us that very few struggling with compulsive use of pornography are actually getting help.  The fact that so few youth are accessing treatment for this issue is a big concern to us.  Certainly the shame and embarrassment that so often accompanies a pornography addiction is a factor that prevents more from seeking help.  Additionally, the use of pornography becoming more widely accepted in society and its use being considered “normal teen behavior” is likely a factor as well. 

Too often, we minimize potential problems and simply hope they will somehow go away on their own.  As parents and professionals, we need to be more vigilant to assure that those teens who are struggling with pornography addiction are able to get help in breaking free from the addiction.  Failing to do so holds both short-term and long-term damaging ramifications for youth.  In most cases, individuals addicted to pornography are unable to break the addiction on their own.

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, prolonged exposure to pornography leads to:

–– An exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society

–– Diminished trust between intimate couples

–– The abandonment of the hope of sexual monogamy

–– Belief that promiscuity is the natural state

–– Belief that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy

–– Cynicism about love or the need for affection between sexual partners

–– Belief that marriage is sexually confining

–– Lack of attraction to family and child-raising

Too many youth do not deal with this issue during their teen years and move into adulthood with an addiction.  As evidenced by the above mentioned study, the consequences lead to the destruction of families and healthy relationships.  In addition to prevention efforts and education about the dangers of pornography, we need to assure that teens struggling with pornography addiction have the chance to get help to break free from the addiction while they are still young.


We are often asked the question: is my child an addict or are they merely engaging in inappropriate behavior? In these modern times it’s hard to distinguish between the two.  Especially when it comes to pornography and masturbation.

The difficulty lies in society’s disagreement over what constitutes the needs of the “natural man.” For example, some people see masturbation as a purely healthy stress reliever, as noted by clinical sexologist Gloria Brame, who stated in a recent Men’s Health article,  "We are programmed, as best we know, to need orgasms. It's a fundamental aspect of men's health, right up there with brushing your teeth."

Just type “is masturbation okay” on Google and you’ll find a whole slew of pro-masturbation articles written by professionals. These same people often don’t see the danger of viewing a little pornography either. If it’s fun, why not do it? If it feels good, why not binge?

The argument against pornography continues to build steam, and is best summed up in this quote from LDS Church apostle Dallin H. Oaks:

“Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life.”

Herein lies the problem. One side claims pornography is perfectly natural. The other claims it’s a disease. So which side is right? More importantly, which side do you listen to? And how do you know if someone you love needs help?

Listed below are earmarks of addictive behavior to help differentiate between addiction and a bad habit. Keep in mind, sexual desires, thoughts, and actions are perfectly natural. It’s when we begin to lose control over those passions that a problem arises — a notion the “Eat drink and be merry” crowd doesn’t concern itself with. 

Frequency – refers to how often the young person engages in the behavior. If viewing pornography only occurs a few times per year, the behavior is not likely an addiction, although the behavior is clearly inappropriate. If the person views pornography three or four times per week, the presence of an addiction is much more likely.

Duration – Duration refers to how long the problem has persisted. Persistent use of pornography over extended periods of time often reflects the young person’s inability to stop viewing.   A recurring problem may indicate that problem-solving skills by the young person have been inadequate or insufficient. The longer a problem has continued, the more it may require professional assistance. Some problems require more time and expertise than family members and Church leaders can provide.

Intensity – Intensity refers to the nature of the material viewed. While all pornographic images and content are inappropriate, some types of material are significantly more intense. Media that depict sexual acts are more intense and graphic than media of individuals wearing little or no clothing. The viewing of hard-core, intense pornography increases the likelihood of an addiction.

Risk Taking – Another primary factor of addiction is the level of risk-taking behaviors presented by a young person. The stronger the addiction, the more the young person is willing to take risks to satisfy the addiction. Risk-taking activities in youth may include escalating immoral behavior, skipping school, sexual abuse, lying to parents and church leaders and any unlawful or covert behavior.

Q & A: What is the typical profile of a youth who seeks treatment for pornography addiction?

While each youth who seeks treatment for pornography addiction is unique, generally speaking we can characterize these young people in the three following ways:


1.       Most youth we work with are raised with strong moral and family values.  They have been taught to avoid pornography and have been raised with a belief that sexual activity should not occur during adolescence, but rather later in life as a married adult.   Because of this belief system, the formation of a pornography addiction during adolescence creates internal conflict because pornography use contradicts the moral values that have been a part of their upbringing.  In turn this creates a sense of shame, guilt, fear, anxiety and depression.  The reality is that there are many young people who regularly use pornography, but simply do not view it as a problem or issue, and as a result, see no need to get help or even stop viewing.  Many of these youth do not adhere to the same moral standards as the youth who seek treatment.  While pornography is obviously a moral issue, the more that we learn about the impact of pornography on the brain, human behavior and development, the more it becomes apparent that pornography addiction among youth is a developmental issue and not simply a moral issue.  We also are finding that even those who don’t adhere to high standards of morality also experience significant negative ramifications later in their adult years from pornography addiction including divorce, depression and sexual dysfunction.

2.       Most youth we work with have unsuccessfully attempted to stop viewing pornography multiple times on their own and have come to realize that they can’t break the addiction on their own and need help.  It is rare when we have a youth seek treatment who hasn’t already tried to break the addiction on their own.  The youth who seek treatment for pornography addiction have come to fully realize that it a real addiction and that left on their own, they are simply unable to kick the habit.  This realization becomes a primary motivator for their seeking help to overcome the addiction.

3.       Most youth we work with are highly motivated to be successful in their lives and view their habitual use of pornography as an impediment to achieving their goals and personal potential.  Pornography addiction treatment tends to be a service that only those who are truly concerned about self-actualization pursue.  As a result, many of the youth we work with in our pornography addiction treatment programs are actually functioning fairly well in most areas of their lives.  Most are law abiding citizens, respectful, kind and thoughtful, excellent students with good grades and actively striving to improve themselves.  Were it not for their pornography addiction, we would not likely see these youth in our treatment clinic.  We encounter youth who seek treatment for other issues such as substance abuse or mental health issues that are also regularly using pornography; however, these youth are not concerned about their use of pornography and don’t believe that the use of pornography is an issue that needs to be addressed in a treatment setting.


Three reasons today's teens are more vulnerable than past generations to develop a pornography addiction

Mental health counselors and psychotherapists are seeing a pattern of increasing numbers of teens and young adults seeking treatment for problems related to pornography addiction and its accompanying behaviors.   This pattern suggests a need for further analysis as to why this is occurring and what the long-term ramifications of this may be.  Studies already suggest that most adults struggling with sexual addiction first developed the addiction during adolescence.  Does this pattern predict an epidemic of future sexual addiction as these teens move into adulthood?

The Youth Pornography Addiction Center was founded in 2010 and has been studying this trend and providing treatment to teens and young adults in this area since that time.  Based on its experience, listed below are three reasons why this trend is occurring:

1.Access—Pornography has always been available, but until the age of the internet, had to be accessed in magazines, video tapes and often required entry into adult books stores and was difficult for teens to obtain.  Never before has sexually explicit material been so readily available and easily accessed.   A majority of teens and young adults have laptops, smart phones, I-pads and are constantly connected to the internet.  In a matter of seconds and virtually anywhere, pornography can viewed.  Internet porn is the medium by which most youth view pornography and most of it free of charge and without accountability for age of the viewer.

2.Potency of today’s Porn—There is a drastic difference between today’s online porn and the porn of just a few decades ago. Now, youth can go to countless websites and find more free porn than they could ever find the time to watch….all in high definition video. They can even pick their favorite template, hair color, sexual activity, and just watch video after video of it. It’s all free, easy to access, available within seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be viewed on phones at any age.  Addicted teens find themselves driven to view more and more pornography and becoming more and more secretive and deceitful in their efforts to do so.  It is true that erotic photos and videos have been around a long time, but the dopamine arousal from turning the pages of a Playboy magazine can’t hold a candle to the steady stream of ever changing erotic stimulation that is so easily obtained from searching for and viewing online porn. This is why online erotica can create such powerful addictions in teens.  Today’s porn doesn’t satisfy teens’ needs; it distorts them. Teens are particularly vulnerable as the strength of the dopamine high is likely the strongest, most euphoric sensation they have ever experienced in their young lives. Skeptics need to understand this “high” rivals anything that could be achieved with drugs.

3.Diminished authentic relationships—The rising generation has been using technology on a daily basis for their entire lives and it is interfering with their ability to connect with others in a face to face and intimate manner.   Many teens text far more than they talk.  Some send more than 1000 texts a day.  Many teens spend hours and hours playing video games and interacting with “virtual friends” on Facebook while sitting at home alone and isolated from “real friends”.   Intimacy and connectedness can not occur in virtually or in cyberspace.  The National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health, which surveyed more than 12,000 high school students throughout the country, has noted that feelings of “connectedness” (feeling close to people at school, fairly treated by teachers, and loved and wanted at home) helped significantly to lower an individual’s likelihood of emotional distress, early sexual activity, substance abuse, violence, and suicide.  Another recent study found in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine has suggested that the more screen (computer, video game, cell phone) exposure teenagers get, the more detached they are from those round them.  There appears to be a relationship between adolescent screen time and the diminished social involvement with parents and peers.  Sexual addiction experts suggest that among the core issues driving the addiction is the lack of intimacy and fear of connectedness.

STAR Guides and Mending The Armor are outpatient treatment program that have been specifically designed to provide youth and young adults with a formal approach for learning to manage and overcome an addiction to pornography and other unwanted sexual behaviors.  These programs are currently being offered in eighteen locations in the United States and Canada.  See the Locations page on the website to find an office near you.  If you are therapist interested in providing this service in your office, see the Become A Provider page for information on how to join the network

STAR Guides helps therapists grow their practice by offering programs for treating Pornography Addiction

Because of the sexualization of our culture, the ease of access to explicit media and the potency of today's pornography, more and more people are seeking help for addiction to pornography.  Unfortunately, pornography addiction is a problem that has become a major factor in the destruction of marriages and families.  It is anticipated that the need for effective treatment for those addicted will significantly increase in the years to come.

The STAR Guides program provides therapists with a formal structured approach to working with individuals struggling with pornography addiction.  The program provides separate tracks for teens, young single adults and married adults. 

The program utilizes the Breaking Free workbook which is a curriculum that provides clients with a step by step, structured approach to learning to manage the addiction.  There are versions of this workbook uniquely designed for teens, young single adults, and married adults. 

Therapists in the STAR Guides network are provided an initial comprehensive training to become qualified to provide treatment.  Additionally, each month, therapists receive a one hour CEU training to continue to grow their knowledge and skill in the area of pornography addiction treatment.  STAR Guides providers can earn up to 16 CEU credits annually. 

 STAR Guides is set up to be easily implemented into any already existing outpatient counseling clinic and is currently being provided in 18 office locations around the United States.

To learn more about the STAR Guides program and becoming a provider follow the link below or call 800.584.4629.

Learn more about becoming a provider.

Three misconceptions about pornography addiction and youth that interfere with recovery

As part of our efforts to spread the STAR Guides program, we have had the chance to visit with many parents, church leaders, therapists and youth from various parts of the country on the topic of pornography addiction among youth and young adults.  Based on these conversations, it seems clear that many youth and young adults struggling with the addiction, but we have been surprised by how few actually seek professional treatment for dealing with the addiction.  Here are three misconceptions that we believe explain this:

1.          Yes, it’s a problem………….but is professional intervention really needed?

Too often, the chronic use of pornography by youth is not viewed as an addiction, but rather just a bad habit.   The word “addiction” is strong and there is hesitancy on the part of parents, church leaders and youth to accept that an addiction exists.  Because of shame and embarrassment, youth may minimize or downplay the extent of the problem.  As a result, parents and church leaders are often not fully aware of the depth of the issue resulting in the conclusion that professional help is not necessary.   The unfortunate reality of pornography addiction is that most are unable to break free on their own without help.

2.          “You just need to try harder.”

Overcoming an addiction to pornography can be very difficult.  Too often, those not familiar with the strength of the addiction simplify the process and expect that more desire and more willpower should result in terminating the addiction.  It is hard for those not familiar with addiction to comprehend why some youth continue to relapse into viewing pornography despite every intention to remain abstinent.  While increased commitment and effort are vital to overcoming the addiction, we need to empower our youth with every possible tool for learning to manage the addiction including spiritual support, emotional support, internet accountability and professional intervention.  In fighting pornography addiction, there is no such thing as too much intervention. 

3.          A few months abstinence equals recovery.

Some addicted youth are able to refrain from viewing pornography for several weeks and even months using willpower. While this shows a strong effort on their part, too often youth who have not participated in treatment will eventually relapse back into viewing pornography.  It is important for youth, parents and church leaders to recognize the need for those who have been addicted to have the opportunity to analyze and explore the nature of the addiction including the underlying emotional and psychological issues that lead to the formation of the addiction.  Too often, a few months abstinence is misinterpreted as the problem being resolved and thus, no need for participation in professional treatment.