Mending The Armor News: Providing the latest news, information and research in the area of pornography addiction treatment for teens and young adults.

Life-changing therapy for LDS youth addicted to porn

STAR Guides wilderness will be featured in an upcoming episode on Innovations Television hosted by Ed Begley Jr.  This show is seen on Discovery Channel, Lifetime and CNN.  

STAR Guides Wilderness is a specialized outdoor youth treatment program that helps teens and young adults learn to manage life without a dependency on pornography.  

This video clip highlights the program therapists Matt Bulkley, LCSW, Kena Frey, LCSW and Dan Sanderson, Ph.D. discussing why wilderness therapy is such a high impact, life changing intervention for those struggling to overcome a pornography 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

Summer program for LDS youth struggling with pornography addiction

Since the creation of the Mending The Armor program, we have learned three important facts about pornography addiction as we have worked with LDS 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.


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. For situations 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! 

Three mistakes parents make when working with a child addicted to porn

In our experience working with LDS families battling pornography addiction, 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 LDS youth and young adults.  It is apparent that many young LDS members are battling the addiction, but we have been surprised by how few actually seek professional treatment for dealing with the addiction.  Listed are three mistakes that parents make 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 has actually developed.  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.  Parents and church leaders tend to underestimate the level of support and help needed to break the addiction and believe that simply reporting to the bishop when relapse occurs is enough support.  Often it requires both ecclesiastical and professional help over a long period of time to overcome.

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.   This is why both ecclesiastical and professional help are essential.

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.  In some cases, young adults serve missions and refrain from viewing pornography for two years only to return home and fall back into the addiction. 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.  The reality is that pornography addiction often becomes a life-long management issue and not something that is resolved over the space of a few week or a few months.

Four steps for LDS parents for addressing a pornography addiction in their teen

Because of the ever increasing amount of sexual content on the internet and in the media, many LDS parents are faced with the difficult and uncomfortable task of having to address sexual behavior problems in their children including pornography addiction.  Many are uncertain about how to handle these situations and where to turn for help.

Among the behavior problems include:

-Repeated viewing of pornography
-Compulsive masturbation
-Sexual experimentation
-Inappropriate internet sexual behaviors
-Sexual boundary issues within the family or with other youth
-Hypersexual behavior

Most parents know the basics for protecting their children from predatory adults on the Internet, but few understand what to do if a child or teenager repeatedly seeks out pornography, phone sex, or risky physical encounters.  How can parents differentiate between typical sexual curiosity and a serious problem that requires professional help?  Listed below are four steps LDS parents can follow for helping a teen struggling with sexual behavior problems.

1. Monitor your teen’s behavior.

Parents need to be aware of what their children are viewing on the internet and in the media.  Using internet accountability programs such as Covenant Eyes are strongly recommended.   Parents need to be aware of who their children are spending time with and what types of activities in which their children participate.  Parents will also want to re-evaluate the types and amounts of media they have allowed in the home.

2. Talk to your teen.

Parents need to be responsible for assuring their children have received a comprehensive sex education.  Parents can’t leave this to schools, priesthood leaders or the media.  Parents can’t allow their children’s knowledge of sexuality to be largely provided by what they see and hear in the media.   In some cases, parents and teens will already have experienced serious communication breakdown.   How parents approach their teens regarding concerns about sexual behavior issues will likely determine whether unhealthy patterns of communications will continue to disrupt and frustrate the relationship or whether a new foundation of openness, trust, and safety can be built and sustained throughout the struggle.  It is true that everyone may feel awkward or uncomfortable.  Regardless of the discomfort, however, when there is evidence of illicit sexual behavior and possible addiction, parents have to take the lead and the communication needs to occur.

3. Get your teen help.

Professional intervention is often needed for managing sexual behavior issues in teens.  Some parents make the mistake of denying or minimizing the seriousness of the problems.  While some youth are able to break the habit through working with their bishop and the repentance process, other youth require more intensive attention than what the bishop can offer.  It is far wiser to seek a professional evaluation, than to take the risk of brushing off the emergence of sexual problem that can have long-lasting consequences.   Waiting until a youth is serving a mission to discover that the problems are still present is devastating to the entire family.  It is better to be proactive in making sure that youth have the skills to manage addictive behaviors.  Most pornography and sexual addiction first manifests during adolescence and prevention is the best method of intervention.  The Youth Pornography Addiction Screening (YPAST) is a free tool that can be used to assess for a possible pornography addiction in teens.

4. Become educated.

Pornography and sexual addiction is a phenomenon that is not understood by much of the population.  Parents need to understand that addiction to pornography can have some of the same characteristics as a drug addiction.  Parents need to realize that their teen is likely suffering from extreme shame and embarrassment.  Parents need to learn about the science behind pornography addiction and then become a source of support for assisting their teen in the creation of a recovery plan that allows them to work to achieve healthy sexuality in their life.

Mending The Armor is a program that has been designed to help LDS youth and young adults overcome an addiction to pornography.  

Why even LDS teens can struggle with pornography addiction

As one of just a few programs in the country specializing in teen pornography addiction treatment, we are often asked what type of youth seek treatment for addiction to pornography.  The answer is quite simple—“good kids.”  We work with many LDS teens addicted to porn in our programs who are outstanding youth in all facets of their life.  This response can be perplexing for some, so let us expound with three main points to support our answer.

1.       Most youth don’t acknowledge the problem and even fewer are willing to seek help.  Far more youth than we realize are regularly viewing porn.  However many of these teens and even their parents simply refuse to recognize the dangers of porn use and “normalize” the behavior.  LDS teens who do recognize the problems associated with viewing porn have been raised with strong moral values and taught to avoid using porn. For these youth, the formation of a pornography addiction creates serious 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, self-loathing, anxiety and depression as they find themselves unable to break free from porn addiction.

2.       Addiction to pornography can develop very quickly and after only viewing for a short period of time.  This can create significant problems for LDS teens that have been able to exhibit high levels of self-discipline and control throughout their lives. The euphoric “high” from the plethora of neurochemicals in the brain released while viewing porn is the strongest emotional sensation they have encountered in their young lives.  The subsequent behavior patterns to re-experience this “high” leads to the formation of an addiction.  LDS teens never envision themselves being addicted to anything, let alone pornography. 

3.       Most are unable to break free from the addiction on their own.  This can be incredibly frustrating for LDS youth who have been successful in staying clear of other vices and problems throughout their childhood and adolescence.  When they have encountered problems, they have been able to successfully resolve issues on their own without outside assistance. Many porn addicted teens remain in denial, believing once they decide to do so, they can stop viewing.  However, most are unable to break free from a pornography addiction on their own despite repeated efforts to do so.  Additionally, The “porn high” becomes a coping style for dealing with uncomfortable emotions, similar to the way that drugs and alcohol are used as it becomes a temporary escape from reality.  Instead of dealing with life challenges, it becomes easier for porn addicted youth to log into a virtual erotic fantasyland.  After repeated failed attempts to stop viewing, addicted youth who want to eliminate the behavior from their lives often experience symptoms of depression, emptiness, shame, self-loathing and isolation. 



Let’s take the stigma out of treatment for porn addiction

The ocean slaps against the bottom of your vessel. The blue green water beckons you to swim. It looks enticing; cool, especially on this hot summer day. You look around. No one on the ship will know you’re gone. A quick jump in the water, maybe a few underwater excursions, and you’ll be back on the ship in no time. Almost every ship passenger does it. In fact, diving off a ship is practically commonplace. There have been a few rumblings about possible dangers — getting left behind, or hitting the water too hard — but not enough to provide more safety nets for the crew.

Without another moment’s thought, perhaps even compulsively, you dive into the water headfirst. What fun! You splash around the water, allowing the liquid to cool you off. A quick dive underwater allows you to see things you’ve never seen before. So you do it again, and again. Each time you rise up out of the water you notice the ship moving farther and farther away.

After one last dive, during which you dove deeper than ever before, you find yourself getting tired struggling to reach the surface. The deeper you go, the darker the world becomes until all you can see is blackness. Your lungs grow tired, depleting your ability to hold your breath. Pain follows …

With one last desperate kick, you push yourself to the surface and see several crewmembers, including the captain, looking at you from the bow of the ship. They do nothing to help your situation; though you see them add security precautions so that others don’t follow your actions. You are left alone. Adrift in the sea with no help, and little more than slight council from passing ships, all of who proclaim, “You shouldn’t have fallen in.”

Why don’t they help me, you ask. How was I supposed to know how dangerous my actions were? What can I do to survive?


Unfortunately, the above story reflects the minds of those poor souls currently addicted to pornography. The helplessness one feels when trapped in the bonds created by this addiction mirror being stranded at sea, surrounded by lifeboats, none of whom it seems are keen to help you with your problem. Instead, an addict continually hears how pornography should be avoided at all costs.

What does one who has already become addicted to pornography do? Who do they talk to? Where do they go?

It’s for this reason that “Mending the Armor” and “Star Guides” was created by “Therapy Associates” — to help those souls already adrift, or weighed down by their addiction — not just pornography, but video games, technology, cell phones, internet, etc. — find a path back to dry land.

This does not negate what religious and civil leaders say about pornography. In fact, porn addiction is a disease. Those who have yet to partake of explicit material are best to steer clear, especially in this day and age where filth corrupts the world around us like a growing virus.

Yet, many often overlook the problem at hand: pornography is not simply a growing epidemic. In point of fact, it’s been a problem for quite a while. Rather than brush the problem away as though it were pesky fly, we need to promote treating this addiction for what it really is: a life-sucking disease that requires love, support and professional help to overcome.

At “Therapy Associates,” our aim is to help those trapped in an addictive cycle break free from their present path and find happiness down a new road. We are the ship that, rather than ignorantly demining you for your actions, floats out to give you a hand. We’ll pull you into our ship, sail you to safety and then do our best to keep you from making the same irrational decisions.

We’re here to help.   



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.  

Art of War: Pornography Addiction

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”— Sun Tzu, Art of War

How does one combat one’s self?

 Therein lies the problem with pornography addiction, which “… activates the same addiction centres in the brain as alcohol and heroin,” according to a recent Cambridge University Study. Except, unlike drugs, alcohol, or heroin, which are typically harder to acquire, pornography exists everywhere — television, computers, and even phones. An individual can’t run from pornography, or even avoid it.

 What they can do is combat it.

 Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

 Before one attempts to battle their addiction, they must first understand what causes the addiction. Therapists and psychiatrists can help determine the underlining problems — stress, isolation, low self-esteem, etc. — that lead to an individual’s bad behaviors, and then develop a Treatment Plan based on their findings.

 So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.”

 A Treatment Plan provides the type of prolonged resistance needed to battle a disease such as pornography. Rather than merely attempt to stop an individual from viewing inappropriate material, a Treatment Plan sets up defenses that not only halt the addiction, but also keeps it from ever striking back.

 Would you rather go to battle with a few weeks worth of supplies — enough to win a small skirmish — or the type of arsenal needed to defeat an enemy soundly enough that it never returns?

 “If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”

 Pornography addiction remains a volatile problem in today’s world. The only way to combat this ever-growing threat is to be prepared to battle all of its advances. By understanding one’s self, one’s needs, and one’s desires, and learning all they can about the problem, an addict can develop a sound strategy to combat and destroy their enemy once and for all.