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 improving mental health (anxiety, depression, PTSD) treatment outcomes for African American youth exposed to interpersonal and racial trauma.
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.
Dr. Metzger’s research is aimed at 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). 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.
Ameliorating Racial Stress and Trauma Among African American Youth
Center for Family Research, University of Georgia
This funding will support the completion of two projects: the first is the Racial Healing C.A.R.E. (Coping And Resilience through Empowerment) Package a user-guided online platform for Black youth and families, and the second is TF-CBT+RS Web, an online tool that integrates racial socialization into cognitive behavioral therapy to support therapists serving Black children and families
Feasibility and Acceptability of a User-Guided C.A.R.E. Package for Racial Healing for Black Youth
Owens Institute for Behavioral Research, Faculty Seed Grant Program, University of Georgia
This Seed Grant Funding will allow for video production, website development, and evaluation of the acceptability, feasibility, and initial promise of efficacy of the C.A.R.E Package for Racial Healing that focuses on Coping And Resilience through Empowerment
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