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.
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.
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.
Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.