• Research Interests

    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.

  • Current Research Projects

    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.

  • Lab Members

    Graduate Students

    Briana Spivey

    briana.spivey25@uga.edu

    Year: 1st Year Doctoral Student

    Major: Clinical Psychology
    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

    Future Goals: Become a tenure track professor, continue conducting research, and be a practicing clinician

    Interesting Fact: I am left handed!

     

    Latisha Swygert

    Latisha.swygert@uga.edu

    Year: 1st Year Doctoral Student

    Major: Clinical Psychology
    Hometown: Clinton, Mississippi
    Research Interest: I am interested in behavioral and mental health outcomes due to interpersonal and racial trauma in African American adolescents
    Future Goals: I'll be here for a while- so we'll see!
    Interesting Fact: I can fall asleep anywhere!

  • Post-Baccalaureate Students

    Lacey Walker

    Lnw70453@uga.edu

    Year: Post-Bac

    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.
    Future Goals: I plan to obtain a clinical psychology PhD.
    Interesting Fact: I have a service dog named Sugar Ray!

    Barbara Walcot-Ceesay

    Barbara.walcotee25@uga.edu

    Year: Post-Bac

    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.
    Future Goals: I plan to get my Ph.D. in clinical psychology
    Interesting Fact: I am a first-generation American!

  • Undergraduate Students

    Jahi Hamilton

    Jahi.hamilton@uga.edu

    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
    Future Goals: I plan on attending a clinical or counseling Ph.D. program
    Interesting Fact: I own a red-tailed boa constrictor!

    Tyquavious Kelley

    Tsk65985@uga.edu

    Year: 3rd Year

    Major: Psychology
    Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
    Research Interest: I am interested in psychological outcomes in the LGBTQ+ community and people of color.
    Future Goals: I plan on attending a clinical or clinical psychology Ph.D. program
    Interesting Fact: I have been to London and Paris!

  • Previous Lab Members

    Destin Mizelle

    Destinmizelle@gmail.com

    Year: Post-Bac

    Major: Psychology, Minor in African American Studies

    Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

    Research Interest: I am interested in researching masculinity, racial socialization, Black resilience and protection

    Where is he now? 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).

  • 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.

    Comprehensive HIV and Substance Abuse Prevention Strategies for Ethnic Minority Teens and Emerging Adults in the Charleston Tri-County Area

    Department of Health and Human Services
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

    The major goal of this project was to expand the capacity of the Charleston County EMPOWER Program to bring evidence-based HIV and addiction prevention services to ethnic- and sexual- minority adolescents and emerging adults through in-person and social media platforms.

    Role: Co-I