The St. Mary’s University Department of Counseling and Human Services has begun providing counseling services for military members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families, thanks to a recent grant designed to fill the gap of mental health services needed for these families.
The two-year, $284,000 grant is from the Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation. The St. Mary’s Department of Counseling and Human Services 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. Services will be provided by advanced graduate students in the St. Mary’s counseling program.
“Thousands of families in the San Antonio area are dealing with the stress and emotional demands of having family members deployed, sometimes more than once in a short period of time,” said Dan Ratliff, Ph.D., who is directing the grant. “The need for services that address the mental health of this population is increasing, particularly in the local area. This grant will enable St. Mary’s to provide hundreds of families with services that can help children, spouses and services members deal with the unique challenges of deployment.”
For information on the program, families in need of assistance can call the St. Mary’s Family Life Center at 431-4394. In addition, the center will have several community partners offering space to provide counseling services in a number of convenient locations around the San Antonio area. The partners include 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. Services will also be provided at the Family Life Center on the St. Mary’s campus.
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 St. Mary’s graduate students.
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.
Funding for this program was provided by the Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment (TRIAD) Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation (www.saafdn.org). 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.
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.
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.