Department of Psychiatry

Behavioral Medicine - Leading Efforts in World-Class Military Research


The Division of Behavioral Medicine focuses primarily on research related to the psychological wounds of war, a field in which it is a world leader. Two federally funded research consortia led by the division comprise the largest group in the world studying ways to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions. Investigators for the division-led STRONG STAR Consortium and Consortium to Alleviate PTSD include the developers of the leading evidence-based treatments for PTSD.

World-class team, cutting-edge research
The STRONG STAR Consortium and Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP), both based in the Division of Behavioral Medicine and directed by Division Chief Alan Peterson, PhD, bring together a world-class team of more than 150 collaborating investigators from over 40 military, VA, and civilian institutions. This group has been the first to take the leading treatments for civilians with PTSD, tailor those treatments to the needs of the military, and evaluate them with active duty service members and recently discharged veterans. STRONG STAR and CAP are the largest PTSD research groups working in military settings to have successfully conducted multiple, large-scale, randomized clinical trials with active-duty military populations. The consortia’s work involves over 40 research projects with a total of $130+ million in DoD, VA, National Institutes of Health, and private funding through STRONG STAR, the CAP, and affiliated projects.

In addition to clinical studies that have provided state-of-the-art clinical assessments and treatments to over 6,000 post-9/11 service members, STRONG STAR and the CAP conduct epidemiological and biological investigations to enhance understanding of physiological causes and contributors to PTSD and related conditions. The CAP has a particular focus on identification of biomarkers associated with PTSD development and recovery.

These ongoing efforts bring national recognition to UT Health San Antonio and “Military City, USA” and have made San Antonio the premier location for military behavioral health research. This cutting-edge research will have a significant national public health impact on military service members and veterans, their families, and our nation.

STRONG STAR Consortium
The STRONG STAR Consortium was established in 2008 with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense. STRONG STAR develops and evaluates treatments specifically designed to target the unique combat-related injuries experienced during military deployments such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury, insomnia, suicide risk, and substance abuse. STRONG STAR is an acronym for the South Texas Regional Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience. Learn more at www.strongstar.org.

Consortium to Alleviate PTSD
The Consortium to Alleviate PTSD, or CAP, was established jointly by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs in 2013 under an executive order from President Obama. Through a highly competitive process that was part of the National Research Action Plan for Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families, UT Health San Antonio and the VA’s National Center for PTSD were selected to lead the CAP and direct this nationwide research collaboration, which builds on the success of STRONG STAR’s research. Learn more at www.consortiumtoalleviateptsd.org.

Focused on signature wounds of modern warfare
Together, STRONG STAR and the CAP are at the forefront of national efforts to help our war fighters heal from their psychological wounds and resume healthy, productive lives in continued military service or as civilians. They focus on a signature injury of post-9/11 deployments – posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD – and other, commonly co-occurring conditions including:
  • Suicide risk
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Chronic pain, including headache
  • Substance(abuse)
  • Increased aggression
Novel approaches to care
STRONG STAR and CAP treatment studies are based on leading therapies that have proven effective with civilians but had not previously been studied with active duty military or recently discharged veterans. In many cases, STRONG STAR and CAP investigators tailor these therapies or the methods of delivering them in hopes of enhancing their efficacy with combat-related PTSD and co-occurring conditions, as well as to make them more accessible to service members and veterans. Novel treatment approaches include:
  • Integration of treatment within the primary care setting
  • Comparing individual vs. group treatment
  • Intensive treatment programs (e.g., every day for 2 weeks, or as part of a weekend retreat)
  • Couple-based treatment to address PTSD and relationship problems
  • Internet and tele-health approaches to care
  • Writing therapy for PTSD
  • Novel medication treatments, or the integration of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapies
  • Incorporation of exercise with cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD
  • Incorporating insomnia treatment with PTSD therapy to improve outcomes for both conditions
How to participate
Most STRONG STAR and CAP studies are based in South/Central Texas, in San Antonio and at or near Fort Hood. However, additional studies have been conducted and are being added in other parts of the country. To learn about currently recruiting treatment studies, visit www.strongstar.org/treatment.