We are absolutely convinced that wilderness therapy is the most effective therapeutic intervention for helping teens overcome addiction to pornography. Over the years, we have treated many youth in outpatient settings and while we see some success in with outpatient counseling, it does not “pack the punch” that wilderness can for disrupting pornography addiction.
“Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed. Over time these neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with women are routed. The neural circuitry anchors this process solidly in the brain. …All women become potential porn stars in the minds of these men. They have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly…Repeated exposure to pornography creates a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. It is hemmed on either side by high containment walls making escape nearly impossible.” -Dr. William Struthers
Neurologists show that to overcome bad habits and addictions, a person needs to build new and positive habits in his or her life, which will in turn create new and positive neural pathways. Simply avoiding bad habits leads to failure. New and rewarding pathways are needed to avert crashes. While that sounds simple, dopamine-driven habits that have been developed over years of repetition are extremely difficult to ignore in favor of new healthy alternatives.
This is why wilderness therapy is so effective. Teens at STAR Guides are completely unplugged from technology and have absolutely no access to pornography. Additionally, each student has to begin to take personal responsibility for all facets of their life from cooking their own meals, to carrying their own gear, to keeping themselves clean and staying hydrated. In the process of learning to manage the demands of wilderness living, bad habits are disrupted and new good habits that involve personal responsibility are formed. This combined with intensive psychotherapy leads to the disruption of an addiction to pornography and the formation of healthy coping skills for managing negative emotions.
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.