Star Guides Wilderness Therapy (2013-present) St. George, UT
History and Background Information
Star Guides Wilderness Therapy is a behavior-modification program that opened in 2013. It is marketed as a Wilderness Program specializing in teenagers (13-17) who are struggling with problems related to innapropriate sexual behaviors, pornography addiction, technology addiction, “reckless” online behaviors, inappropriate touching or other compulsive sexual/relational behavior issues. The program has a maximum enrollment of 30 teens, who are divided into smaller, single-sex groups of between 6 and 8 teens. The average length of stay is 4 months, but there are reports that teens were forced to spend over 7 months at the program. The cost of tuition is presently unknown. Star Guides has been a NATSAP member since 2019.
The address associated with Star Guides is 377 E Riverside Dr Building B, St. George, UT 84790. However, because Star Guides is a “wilderness” program, the teens actually spend the duration of their stay backpacking around the high desert of Southern Utah. The hikes range from 2 to 8 miles in length each day.
STAR Guides was developed as a part of Mending the Armor, an LDS organization that aims to help LDS youth who are dealing with pornography addiction. In addition to Star Guides, Mending the Armor also operates a separate youth program for teenage boys (12-18) who are struggling with “viewing pornography, masturbation, sexual experimentation, sexting, cybersex, inappropriate internet sexual behaviors, fetishes, voyeurism, or sexual boundary issues within the family or with other youth”.
Founders and Notable Staff
Matt Bulkley is the Co-Founder and current Executive Director of Star Guides. His career in the TTI began when he worked as a Therapist at the reportedly abusive Redcliff Ascent from 2001 until 2012. During this time, he also worked as a Therapist at the reportedly abusive Sunrise RTC from 2002 until 2003.
Daniel “Doc Dan” Sanderson is the Co-Founder and current Clinical Director of Star Guides. His career in the TTI began when he worked as the Clinical Director for Ascent Inc., which owns Redcliff Ascent, Discovery Ranch, Discovery Ranch for Girls, Discovery Academy, Discovery Connections, and Oxbow Academy, from 1994 until 2012.
Kena Frey is the Co-Founder of Star Guides. She previously worked as a Field Counselor and Therapist at the reportedly abusive Redcliff Ascent from 2001-2002 and also from 2004-2012. Her other prior places of employment is presently unknown, however, her bio states that her experience “covers a wide spectrum of therapeutic environments, including prevention/intervention programs, public schools, residential treatment centers, and wilderness.”
Brian Pace currently works as a Psychotherapist at Star Guides. Prior to this, he worked as the Executive Director of the confirmedly abusive Red Rock Canyon School during the time where a sexual abuse scandal occurred in a subsidiary program of RRCS. He reportedly worked at Red Rock Canyon since its inception in 1999 and worked as the Executive Director since 2004. He also helped to create and owned the reportedly abusive Sunrise RTC. His other prior places of employment are presently unknown.
Mark Noe currently works as a Psychotherapist at Star Guides. He previously worked as the Staff Services Director of the reportedly abusive Redcliff Ascent beginning in 2004. His other prior places of employment are presently unknown.
Like other behavior-modification programs, Star Guides uses a level system consisting of three phases. However, the specifics of these levels are presently unknown.
According to the web site, the students eat a diet of 3,000 calories per day. The diet consists of “rice, lentils, farina, oats, dried vegetables, dried beans, powdered milk, cheese, peanut butter, trail mix, canned tuna, chicken, turkey, fresh fruits and vegetables twice weekly”.
In order to graduate from the program, the teens ust complete an autobiography of their life, using the Star Guides Student Handbook. They are required to share this with other students. Parents are required to complete weekly ‘parent narratives’ that dovetail with the student’s writing assignments. The teens reportedly meet with their therapist in individual therapy sessions twice per week.
The residents are only permitted to contact their family through letters which are read by staff and uploaded onto the parent portal. Parents participate in a weekly parent phone therapy session with the therapist.
The teens do not sleep in tents as, according to the program’s website, “raditional tents are far too heavy for backpacking in the remote wilderness”, so the program only uses light-weight tarps. On clear nights, the teens do not use tarps, but instead sleep exposed under the stars.
Survivors have reported that Star Guides is an abusive program. Allegations of abuse and neglect that have been reported by survivors include unsafe conditions, lack of hygiene, lack of safety equipment, insufficient meals/food deprivation, psychological abuse, and deceptive/fraudulent marketing practices.
10/15/2021: (SURVIVOR) ” We had to “prove to the staff” that we were ready to move up to another phase. They have a restraining technique where they are able to contort children’s wrists and restrain them. I have watched a girl be publicly humiliated with this method, as she was limping and crying as they forced her to walk this way in front of the group. Thank you so much for your research. I will help wherever I can. The website will make it look like a beautiful oasis for kids, their Facebook will share delicious thanksgiving meals … like I said I hiked up a mountain for the incentive of burgers. We would hike miles on end per day. One time I hiked 15+ miles for the incentive of kool aid. With packs tied with car seatbelts dangling off our backs. At times if we didn’t “make a fire” we would eat dry oats for dinner. Like I said I was pushed into the fire and pulled out, the girl tried to kill me to get out of the program. We would get our water from “trofts”, where animals would drink, often littered with bugs, and diluted with bleach drops.” – u/Womaned (Reddit)
Star Guides Old Website Homepage (archived, 2013)
Reddit thread regarding the facility
Psychologist Says Early Developmental Trauma May Lead To Hypersexualized Behavior In Adolescents (Dr. Phil, 9/9/2020)