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The EMPOWER Lab “Engaging Minorities in Prevention, Outreach, Wellness, Education, & Research” is directed by Isha W. Metzger, PhD at Georgia State University.

Empower Lab, Georgia State University 

Meet ABCT’s Featured Lab

The EMPOWER Lab “Engaging Minorities in Prevention, Outreach, Wellness, Education, & Research” is directed by Isha W. Metzger, PhD at Georgia State University.



Trainee Lab Members


We asked each of the EMPOWER Lab members:

What is your primary research interest?


Ashanti J. Brown (she/her), 2nd Year Doctoral Student

 Improving culturally tailored interventions for racial/ethnic minorities, risk and resiliency for Black youth and women, and the impact of racial and intergenerational trauma on Black individuals’ PTSD outcomes.


Sawyer Adams (they/them), Postbaccalaureate Student

 I am interested in the intersection of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC identity. I’d like to understand intersectional identity development and analyze how socialization either encourages or hinders identifying with multiple marginalized groups (e.g., “coming out” as a Latinx/Black/Asian person).


Gifty Ayawvi (she/her), Postbaccalaureate Student

I am interested in the impact of psychosocial stressors such as racial discrimination and immigration history on the mental and physical health outcomes of people of African descent, with some emphasis on psychotic disorders and the prodromal stage.


Jahi Hamilton (he/him), Postbaccalaureate Student

I study the impact sexual orientation has on mental health outcomes such as depression and suicidality.


Liana Giglio (she/her), Postbaccalaureate Student

Studying the varying personality development paths and mental health disparities that emerge in different groups of people.


Deron Morrison (he/him), 4th Year Undergraduate Student

I am interested in the neurobiological impact of racial trauma across the lifespan in African Americans.


Isha Metzger, Ph.D.

Dr. Isha Metzger is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Georgia State University, Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia, and Visiting Research Faculty at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS’ at Yale University. Dr. Metzger earned her PhD in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina. Dr. Metzger is Owner of Cultural Concepts, LLC, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and a certified clinician in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Dr. Metzger’s work is aimed at healing interpersonal and racial trauma through utilizing racial socialization to improve cognitive and behavioral outcomes for Black youth and families in the community and in real world settings.

Black youth are more likely to experience potentially traumatic stressors including abuse, neglect, racial trauma, and discrimination. The research of the EMPOWER Lab is aimed at preventing engagement in risky behaviors (e.g., sexual activity, alcohol use) as well as understanding risk and resilience factors (e.g., trauma experiences, racial socialization, racial discrimination, family, and peer relationships) that impact the relation between trauma exposure and problematic outcomes (e.g., STI/HIV exposure, unintended pregnancies). The EMPOWER Lab also conducts community-based, translational, and public health research to conceptualize, implement, disseminate, and evaluate prevention and treatments aimed at reducing mental and behavioral health disparities for Black youth.

How long have you been a member of ABCT?

I first joined as a student member in 2015!


How often and why do you attend the ABCT convention?

I try to attend ABCT every year, to learn about progressive and timely research, to network with colleagues, to attend the Special Interest Groups, and to catch up with friends in the field.


How do you stay current with developments in the field (research and/or practice and/or policy)?

I stay current in the field by attending conferences; participating in continuing education trainings; conducting lab meetings, and employing a Racial Trauma Task Force with undergraduate, graduate students, and staff; and reading peer-reviewed manuscripts to translate recent findings and disseminate research summaries, psychoeducation, resources, and announcements that are relevant for the community.


How has ABCT helped you/your lab professionally (e.g., network/collaborate, stay current with developments in the field, meet prospective/former trainees)?

As ABCT is a rather large conference, we particularly enjoy engaging with the Special Interest Groups (SIG) for their poster presentations, guided discussions, and annual update meetings. We are most active in the Black Americans in Research and Behavioral Therapy SIG and the Child Maltreatment and Interpersonal Violence SIG.


Does your lab have any traditions? Does your lab do anything together for fun?

Our main tradition is the Peace and Productivity Party that we have each year. We also celebrate birthdays, holidays, major and minor accomplishments, attend events in the city together, and we enjoy spending time together as much as possible!


What advice would you give prospective trainees (either in general, or to those applying to your lab specifically)?

It’s important to first research different PhD programs and the specific labs that you are interested in. Fit is very important, so I always encourage students to look into the research interests of prospective mentors and to reach out if you have questions about their research and whether they are accepting students for the upcoming cycle. Clinical psychology programs are competitive, so I also advise students to get as much experience as possible in the form of research assistantships, internships, or volunteer work. I also recommend that students attend conferences in the field and network with professors and students around overlapping interests. Lastly, particularly for students interested in doing community-based research and outreach, it is important to stay committed to your values and your long-term goals. PhD programs can be especially challenging, so it is very important to remember your values, to stay committed to your goals, and to keep focused on your research and clinical interests and their potential to make a difference in people’s lives.


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