News Release: Research , School of Medicine

Aug. 6,  2010

Culturally Informed Interventions Show Value for Abused and Suicidal African American Women

News Article ImageNadine Kaslow, PhD, psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, led the development of the Grady Nia Project.

A study published in the August, 2010, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology shows that abused, suicidal African American women assigned to a culturally informed, empowerment-focused educational group were less depressed and had lower levels of psychological distress than their peers who received usual psychiatric and psychological care in the community.

Study data also show that when confronted with stressful life events, the women who were in this empowerment intervention coped much better than those women who did not receive the specialized services.

The study is based on an intervention called the "Grady Nia Project." Nia is a counseling program for abused and suicidal African American women that began its evolution in the 1990's at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Nadine Kaslow, PhD, psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, led the development of the program. It was named Nia in 1999, a word that comes from the Kwanzaa term that means "purpose." The program aims to help women who have been abused find meaning and purpose in their lives so that they feel empowered to live violence free, and no longer feel that they need to end their own lives in order to escape their pain.

Nia includes regularly scheduled group sessions targeted to teach such things as resiliency, problem solving, self-efficacy, social connectedness and other protective factors to enhance coping with stress exposure.

The sessions incorporate culturally relevant variables such as African proverbs, African American heroines and personal positive female mentors and role models, which aids the women in creating purpose and hope. The counselors emphasize culturally relevant coping strategies, such as spirituality and religious involvement, to enhance self-awareness and connection.

Nia staff is on-call 24/7 to handle a host of issues, from thinking through a safety plan and finding shelter, to finding help for addiction problems and securing resources from community agencies.

Kaslow says the women who participate in Nia have made some remarkable progress over time. "They feel more positive about themselves, more hopeful about their lives, and better able to cope with stress. They feel less depressed, anxious, and suicidal, and they feel connected to a strong community of people."

Study investigators include Amy S. Leiner, Susan Reviere, Emily Jackson, Kafi Bethea, Jeshmin Bhaju and Miesha Rhodes, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine; Min-Jung Gantt and Herman Senter, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Clemson University and Martie P. Thompson, Department of Public Health Sciences, Clemson University.

The program is funded by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health.

The Nia Project helps women who are trying to break free from intimate partner abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, contact 404-616-2897 or for more information, visit the Grady NIA project web site.

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology: Suicidal, Abused African American Women's Response to a Culturally Informed Intervention, 2010, Vol. 78, No. 4, 449-458, American Psychological Association, DOI: 10.1037/a0019692


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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