African American youth are more likely to experience adversities including abuse, neglect, and racial trauma and discrimination. These youth also are less likely to initiate and engage in mental health treatment, and when they do, they are less likely to complete and to benefit from clinical interventions, and more likely to suffer disproportionate consequences of maladaptive adjustment. Conversely, there are protective processes that naturally occur within African American family that can be used to strengthen relationships, prevent abuse, combat the effects of racial stressors, improve engagement and outcomes in mental health services, and reduce risk for future engagement in risk behaviors.
As Director of The EMPOWER Lab, Dr. Isha Metzger focuses on "Engaging Minorities in Prevention, Outreach, Wellness, Education, & Research" at the University of Georgia. Within this context, The EMPOWER Lab aims to reduce mental health disparities through increasing engagement in mental health treatment, community outreach, education and training, and research focusing on the Black community. Specifically, Dr. Metzger is interested in preventing engagement in risky behaviors (e.g., sexual activity, alcohol use, delinquency) as well as understanding risk and resilience factors (e.g., trauma experiences, racial socialization and racial discrimination, family and peer relationships) that impact the relation between trauma exposure and problematic outcomes (e.g., STI/HIV exposure, unintended pregnancies, revictimization, drunk-driving accidents, legal system involvement). Dr. Metzger is also engaged in translational research including the conceptualization, implementation, dissemination, and evaluation of prevention programming aimed at reducing mental health and health disparities among African American youth.
Project NaviGAte: Connecting Georgia to Substance Use and HIV Prevention
Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Project NaviGAte targets two pervasive public health concerns, HIV and substance misuse among at-risk and underserved communities, specifically trauma-exposed racial/ethnic minorities. Project NaviGAte will provide much needed navigation services, develop a public health messaging and awareness campaign, and enhance HIV and substance misuse screening, prevention and treatment among trauma-exposed racial/ethnic minorities in 4 of the 48 federally-designated “hotspots” hardest hit by the HIV epidemic: Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties in GA.
The Impacts of Racial Socialization and Racial Stress on the Association between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Detrimental Outcomes among African American Adolescents
Owens Institute for Behavioral Research, University of Georgia
Studies suggest that traumatic experiences (e.g., physical abuse, criminal victimization, witnessing domestic violence) take a disproportionate toll on African American youth than their Caucasian and Hispanic peers. This pilot project aims to test hypotheses regarding risk (e.g., racial discrimination, vicarious racial trauma) and protective (e.g., racial socialization) mechanisms associated with African American youths' adjustment to traumatic and abusive experiences. The specific aim of this pilot project is to test hypotheses regarding risk (e.g., racial discrimination, vicarious racial trauma) and protective (e.g., racial socialization) mechanisms associated with African American youths' adjustment to traumatic and abusive experiences.
Culturally Enhanced Trauma Treatment to Reduce HIV Risk for African American Youth: Integrating Racial Socialization
National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health
This study utilizes the input of topical experts, clinicians, youth, and caregivers in order to create a standardized cultural add-on for existing evidence-based cognitive-behavioral trauma treatments. Racial socialization will be integrated by clinicians both within (e.g., psychoeducation) and between (e.g., in-vivo, “in real life” assignments) sessions with African American youth and caregivers in order to improve engagement and decrease trauma sequelae (e.g., PTSD, HIV risk) for this population. Feasibility and acceptability of this cultural add-on will also be assessed in this study.
The Impact of Lifestyle Factors on Rural Youths’ Vulnerability to Substance Abuse
Center for Translational and Prevention Science, University of Georgia
Challenging rural environments take a toll on neurocognitive development, undermining the development of decision making skills and affecting substance use vulnerability. Emerging research also suggests that youths’ development of decision making competencies may be affected by a number of lifestyle factors including sleep, physical activity, food, caffeine, and interactive media. This study focuses on how stressful environments affect substance use via neurocognitive pathways.
A Community Based Participatory Research Approach to Reducing Health Disparities in Service Initiation and Engagement following Trauma Exposure
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health
This mixed methods Community Based Participatory Research Study is designed to explore barriers and facilitators to service initiation and engagement, and to identify strategies to address barriers to service engagement among racial/ethnic minority youth and families who are referred to Children’s Advocacy Centers following potential trauma exposure.
Year: 1st Year Doctoral Student
Major: ClinicalPsychology Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia Research Interest: I am interested in the implications of cultural coping mechanisms (i.e., Strong Black Womanhood Scheme) and racial trauma for mental health disparities and outcomes in African American women
Plans after graduation: Become a tenure track professor, continue conducting research, and be a practicing clinician
Interesting Fact: I am left handed!
Year: 1st Year Doctoral Student
Major: ClinicalPsychology Hometown: Clinton, Mississippi Research Interest: I am interested in behavioral and mental health outcomes due to interpersonal and racial trauma in African American adolescents Plans after graduation: I'll be here for a while- so we'll see! Interesting Fact: I can fall asleep anywhere!
Major: Psychology, Minor in African American Studies
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Research Interest: I am interested in researching masculinity, racial socialization, Black resilience and protection
Plans after Graduation: I was recently accepted into the University of Kentucky's Doctoral Program in Counseling Psychology, to begin in the Fall of 2020!
Interesting Fact: I love to travel! I have been to 5 countries in the past year (Jamaica, Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, and Brazil).
Major: Psychology, Minor in Human Services Hometown: Chatsworth, Georgia Research Interest: I am interested in the Red Zone and and the impact that sexual assault on college campuses has on the emotional, physical, and social well-being of female college students. Plans after graduation: I plan to obtain a clinical psychology PhD. Interesting Fact: I have a service dog named Sugar Ray!
Year: 4th Year
Major: Psychology, Minor in Women's Studies Hometown: Lithonia, Georgia Research Interest: I am interested in understanding the intersection of race, physical health, and mental health in people of African descent. Plans after graduation: I plan to get my Ph.D. in clinical psychology Interesting Fact: I am a first-generation American!
Year: 3rd Year
Major: Psychology Hometown: Lilburn, Georgia Research Interest: I study the impact sexual orientation has on mental outcomes such as depression and suicidality Plans after graduation: I plan on attending a clinical or counseling Ph.D. program Interesting Fact: I own a red-tailed boa constrictor!
Year: 3rd Year
Major: Psychology Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia Research Interest: I am interested in psychological outcomes in the LGBTQ+ community and people of color. Plans after graduation: I plan on attending a clinical or clinical psychology Ph.D. program Interesting Fact: I have been to London and Paris!
Previous Research Projects
African American College Students’ Alcohol Use and Sexual Behaviors: Associations with Stress, Racial Discrimination, and Social Support
Southern Regional Education Board
The “Activities and Behaviors in College” (ABC) Study sought to identify risk behavior profiles of alcohol use, risky sex, and co-occurring alcohol use and sexual activity among emerging adults in college. Additionally, this study examined the ways that risk behavior profiles were associated with general and culturally specific risk and resilience factors for college students.
Community and Institutional Partners
Metzger, I., Anderson, R., Are, F., & Ritchwood, T (in press, 2020). Healing interpersonal and racial trauma: Integrating Racial Socialization into TF-CBT for African American Youth. Child Maltreatment.
Metzger, I., Cooper, S., Griffin, C. B., Golden, A., Opara, I., & Ritchwood, T., (in press, 2020). Parenting Profiles of Academic and Racial Socialization: Associations with Academic Engagement and Perception of Academic Ability of African American Adolescents. Journal of School Psychology.
Opara, I., Lardier Jr. D.T., Metzger, I., Herrera, A., Franklin, L., Garcia-Reid, & Reid R.J.. (accepted for publication, 2020). “Bullets have no names”: A qualitative exploration of community trauma. Journal of Child and Family Studies.
Jones, S. T., Metzger, I., & Anderson, R., (accepted for publication, 2020). “Standing in the Gap”: The continued importance of culturally competent therapeutic interventions for Black youth. Evidence-Based Practice in Child & Adolescent Mental Health.
Anderson, R., Metzger, I., Jones, S., Lozada, F., (accepted for publication, 2020). Interrupting the Pathway from Discrimination to Psychological Outcomes: Investigating Racial Worries and Racial Socialization Competency. Child Development.
Griffin, C. B., Gray, D., Hope, E., Metzger, I., & Henderson, D. X. (in press, 2020). Do Coping Responses and Racial Identity Promote School Engagement Among Black Youth? Using an Equity-Elaborated Social-Emotional Learning Lens. Urban Education.
Salami, T., Lawson, E., & Metzger, I., (in press, 2020). The Impact of Microaggressions on African American College Students' Worry about Their Future Employment: The Moderating Role of Campus Support and GPA. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.
Opara, I., Assan, M.A., Pierre, K., Gunn, J III., Metzger, I., Hamilton J., & Arugu, E. (in press, 2020). Suicide among Black Children: An Integrated Model of the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide and Intersectionality Theory for Researchers & Clinicians. Journal of Black Studies.
Griffin, C. B., Metzger, I., Halliday-Boykins, C., & Salazar, C. (in press, 2020). Racial Fairness, School Engagement, and Discipline Outcomes in African American High School Students: The Important Role of Gender. School Psychology Review.
Henderson, D., Jones, J., McLeod, K., Jackson, K., Lunsford, A., & Metzger, I. (in press, 2019). A phenomenological study of racial harassment in school and emotional effects among a sample of older adolescents. The Urban Review.
Jones, S., Anderson, R., Gaskin-Wasson, A., Sawyer, B. Applewhite, K., & Metzger, I., (in press, 2019). From “Crib to Coffin”: Navigating Coping from Racism-Related Stress throughout the Lifespan of Black Americans. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.
Cooper, S. M., Metzger, I., Golden, A. R., Georgeson, A., Burnett, M & White, C. N. (in press, 2019). Communicative support and monitoring-relevant knowledge among African American residential fathers: Longitudinal associations with adolescent substance use. Journal of Child and Family Studies.
Stewart, R.W., Orengo-Aguayo, R., Wallace, M., Metzger, I., & Rheingold, A. (in press, 2019) Leveraging technology and cultural adaptations to increase access and engagement among trauma-exposed African American youth: School-based telehealth delivery of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Metzger, I., Salami, T., Carter, S., Halliday-Boykins, C. A., Anderson R. E., Jernigan, M. M., & Ritchwood, T. (2018). African American Emerging Adults’ Experiences with Racial Discrimination and Drinking Habits: The Moderating Roles of Perceived Stress. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.
Jaffe, A. E., Bountress, K. E., Metzger, I. W., Maples-Keller, J. L., Pinsky, H. T., George, W. H., & Gilmore, A. K. (2018). Student engagement and comfort during a web-based personalized feedback intervention for alcohol and sexual assault. Addictive Behaviors, 82, 23-27.
Apatu, E., Hamadi, H., Abrams, J., Metzger, I., & Spaulding, A. (2018). Association between Hospital Community Services and County Population Health in the United States. Journal of Public Health.
Walker, J. H., Bountress, K. E., Calhoun, C. D., Metzger, I. W., Adams, Z. W., Amstadter, A., Thomas, S. & Danielson, C. K. (2018). Impulsivity and Comorbid PTSD-Binge Drinking. Journal of Dual Diagnosis.
Metzger, I., Cooper, S. M., Ritchwood, T. D., Onyeuku, C., & Griffin, C. B. (2017). Profiles of African American college students’ alcohol use and sexual behaviors: Associations with stress, racial discrimination, and social support. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(3), 374-385.
Metzger, I., Blevins, C., Calhoun, C., Ritchwood, T., Gilmore, A., Stewart, R., Bountress, K. (2017). An examination of the impact of maladaptive coping on the association between stressor type and alcohol use in college. Journal of American College Health, 65, 534-541.
Golden, A. R., Griffin, C. B., Metzger, I., & Cooper, S. M. (2017). School Racial Climate and Academic Outcomes in African American Adolescents: The Protective Role of Peers. Journal of Black Psychology, 44, 47-73.
Gilmore, A. K., Bird, E. R., Neilson, E. C., Metzger, I., George, W. H., & Norris, J. (2017). Understanding sexual assault risk perception in college: Associations among sexual assault history, drinking to cope, and alcohol use. Addictive Behaviors, 78, 178-186.
Ritchwood, T.D., Powell, T. W., Metzger, I. W., Dave, G., Corbie-Smith, G., Atujuna, M., Vander Schaaf, E., Wynn, M., Lin, F., Zhou, W., & Akers, A.Y. (2017). Understanding the relationship between religiosity and caregiver-adolescent communication about sex within African-American families. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 2979-2989.
Griffin, C B., Cooper, S. M., Metzger, I., & Golden, A. (2017). School Racial Climate and the Academic Achievement of African American High School Students: The Mediating Role of School Engagement. Psychology in the Schools, 54, 673-688.
Bountress, K., Metzger, I., Maples-Keller, J., & Gilmore, A. (2017). Reducing sexual risk behaviors: secondary analyses from a randomized controlled trial of a brief web-based alcohol intervention for underage, heavy episodic drinking college women. Addiction Research & Theory, 25:4, 302-309.
Ritchwood, T.D., DeCoster, J, Metzger, I., Bolland, J., & Danielson, C.K. (2016). Does it really matter which drug you choose? An examination of the influence of type of drug on type of risky sexual behavior. Addictive Behaviors, 60, 97-102.
Stewart, R.W., Tuerk, P.W., Metzger, I., Davidson, T.M., & Young, J. (2016). A decision tree approach to the assessment of posttraumatic stress disorder: Engineering empirically rigorous and ecologically valid assessment measures. Psychological Services, 13, 1-9.
Andrews III, A. R., Jobe-Shields, L., López, C. M., Metzger, I. W., de Arellano, M. A., Saunders, B., & Kilpatrick, D. G. (2015). Polyvictimization, income, and ethnic differences in trauma-related mental health during adolescence. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 50(8), 1223-1234.
Cooper, S.M., Smalls-Glover, C., Metzger, I., & Brown, C. (2015). African American fathers' racial socialization patterns: Associations with and racial identity beliefs and discrimination experiences. Family Relations, 64, 278-290.
Cooper, S.M., White-Johnson, R., Brown Griffin, C., Metzger, I., Avery, M., Eaddy, H.,Shephard, C., & Guthrie, B. (2014). Community involvement and reduced risk behavior engagement among African American adolescents: The mediating role of empowerment beliefs. Journal of Black Psychology, 41, 415-437.
Cooper, S. M., Brown, C., Metzger, I., Clinton, Y., & Guthrie, B. (2013). Racial discrimination and African American adolescents’ adjustment: Gender variation in family and community social support, promotive and protective factors. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22(1), 15-29.
Metzger, I., Cooper, S. M., Flory, K., & Zarrett, N. (2013). Culturally sensitive risk-behavior prevention programs for African American adolescents: A systematic analysis. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 16, 187-212.
Guthrie, B.J., Cooper, S. M., Brown, C., & Metzger, I. (2012). Degrees of difference among minority female juvenile offenders’ psychological functioning, risk behavior engagement, and health status: A latent profile investigation. The Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 23, 204-225.
Williams, R. S., Terry, N. P., & Metzger, I., (2012). Kid Categories: A comparison of the category productions of LSES and MSES elementary school children. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 34, 71-80.
Cooper, S.M., Guthrie, B.J., Brown, C.L., & Metzger, I. (2011). Daily hassles and African American adolescent females’ psychological functioning: Direct and interactive associations with gender role orientation. Sex Roles, 65, 397-409.