The St. Mary’s Department of Counseling and Human Services has been awarded a two-year, $284,000 grant to fill the gap of mental health services needed for San Antonio area military members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.

The grant is from the Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation. The St. Mary’s counseling department will provide a range of services to military members and their families including marital therapy, family play therapy, individual counseling, and neurofeedback therapy at multiple sites across the San Antonio region. Dana Comstock, Ph.D., is chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Services, and the grant coordinator is Dan Ratliff, Ph.D.

To identify and assist military members and their families, the Family Life Center of St. Mary’s will partner with the Dodd Field Chapel/ Family Life Chapel at Fort Sam Houston, the Family Support Center of Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District, and the Guadalupe Valley Christian Counseling Center in Seguin. The multiple sites will allow easy access for those who need the services and they will be staffed by advanced graduate students in the St. Mary’s counseling program.

Families in need of assistance can call the St. Mary’s Family Life Center at 436-3226.

A 2006 report by the U.S. Army Surgeon General found that a significant number of returning warriors report severe marital distress and debilitating mental health problems as a result of their service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 troops from the San Antonio area have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, impacting an additional 14,000 to 19,000 family members. Based on those estimates, up to 18,000 warriors and family members in the local area are in need of mental health services.

The graduate programs in counseling meet the highest recognized standards of education and training. The counseling department’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education, and the Community Counseling Program is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

Graduate students in the Department of Counseling and Human Services provide quality mental health services in more than 47 internship sites across the San Antonio area, addressing a wide range of clinical problems. In 2006, student interns provided more than 30,000 hours of direct clinical services in schools, hospitals, and non-profit agencies.

Although the need is increasing, few in the mental health fields are prepared to address the particular mental health needs of returning veterans and their families. The St. Mary’s counseling department already offers a course called “Counseling Military Families” that teaches the most up-to-date information on the mental health needs and treatment of warriors and their family members. Specializations within the department offer expertise to assist all family members affected by deployment. The clinical experience gained through the grant initiatives will continue to develop expertise in this area for our graduate students.

Funding for this program was provided by the Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment (TRIAD) Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation ( For more than 40 years, the San Antonio Area Foundation, a publicly supported philanthropic institution, has been administering donors’ funds and granting gifts from those funds to worthy charitable causes that significantly enhance the quality of life in the communities they serve.

St. Mary’s University has a long history of support and collaboration with the military.  The ROTC program has commissioned more than 1,400 officers for service in the military, and the University has more than 20 alumni who have achieved the rank of general or admiral in the U.S. armed forces.

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