Riana Elyse Anderson, Phd


Riana is an Assistant Professor in the Health Behavior and Health Education Department in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. Her scholarship addresses culturally specific parenting practices to reduce race-related stress in families. She earned her doctorate in Clinical and Community Psychology at the University of Virginia and was a Clinical and Community Psychology Predoctoral Fellow at Yale University’s School of Medicine. She was a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leader at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Anderson graduated from the University of Michigan in 2006 with a degree in Psychology and Political Science and taught for 2 years with Teach For America in Atlanta. She has also conducted Community Based Participatory Research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and neuropsychological research at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Anderson strives to improve psychological outcomes for Black youth through culturally- and contextually-relevant parenting programs focused on racism and discrimination, effective coping strategies, and community building, participation, and collaboration. One of her primary goals is to create interventions and youth centers which support the mental and physical health of Black youth in urban communities.

Dr. Anderson aims to facilitate healing in Black families with practical applications of her research and clinical services, as well as through teaching/mentorship and policy recommendations through the following goals:

Goal #1: To improve the successful outcomes for Black youth via: culturally-relevant coping strategies, culturally- and contextually-relevant parenting interventions, and community building, participation, and collaboration.

Goal #2: To create and replicate interventions and youth centers which support the mental and physical health and educational goals of Black youth in urban communities.

Dr. Anderson was born and raised in Detroit. She enjoys all things food, sports, and travel, and is adventurous - except for the outdoors. She enjoys listening to and playing music and adores cooking for friends and family (not to mention herself!).

18_10_12 Riana Portraits-20.jpg



2015 - 2017
University of Pennsylvania
Applied Psychology Postdoctoral Fellowship


Yale University
Clinical and Community Psychology Predoctoral Fellowship


University of Virginia
Clinical and Community Psychology Ph.D.


University of Michigan
Psychology and Political Science B.A.

Work Summary






Dr. Anderson uses mixed methods in clinical interventions to study racial discrimination and socialization in Black families to reduce racial stress and trauma and improve psychological well-being and family functioning. She investigates how protective familial mechanisms such as parenting and racial socialization operate in the face of risks linked to poverty, discrimination, and residential environment. Dr. Anderson is particularly interested in how these factors predict familial functioning and subsequent child psychosocial outcomes, especially when enrolled in  family-based interventions. In 2015, she developed a five-session intervention entitled EMBRace (Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race) to alleviate racial stress and trauma in parents and adolescents to facilitate healthy parent-child relationships, parent and adolescent psychological well-being, and racial assertiveness as a coping mechanism.

The Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race (EMBRace) intervention is a 5-session family-based racial socialization and racial stress and trauma management intervention designed to reduce parent and adolescent stress and improve familial psychological and physiological well-being and adolescent academic engagement. EMBRace involves skill development regarding racial socialization content (cultural pride, preparation for bias, promotion of distrust, and colorblindness), socialization processes (knowledge, stress management, and coping) and familial delivery (affection, protection, correction, and connection). EMBRace is the first identified racial socialization intervention for adolescents and their parents and uses culturally-specific theories and evidence- based practices to engage in racial encounters and reduce racial stress. EMBRace utilizes narrative-sharing, individual and dyadic clinical work, and culturally-relevant experiences to help families engage, manage, and bond through the difficult topic of race in America.

Additionally, along with her colleague Dr. Shawn Jones, Dr. Anderson co-produces Our Mental Health Minute. Our vision is to:
1) Reduce stigma about mental health in the Black community
2) Provide resources in access, utilization, and quality of mental health care
3) Increase mental health literacy (in a fun and relevant way!)

With 2 seasons and over 25 episodes on mental health content, we hope to provide materials that are relatable, informative, and helpful in engaging Black people with mental health knowledge and treatment.


Former Projects

Dr. Anderson’s master's thesis investigated factors explaining variance in parenting behaviors, including ethnicity, residential location, and measurement type. Her interest in culturally-specific approaches led her to consult with Charlottesville, Virginia community groups and schools in Washington, D.C. on interventions. Additionally, she co-authored grants for Charlottesville families and service agencies. Riana was awarded the Institute for Educational Sciences (IES) fellowship (2012–2014) and worked with the Foundations of Cognition and Learning lab in the Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning within the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Her doctoral dissertation utilized a mixed-methods approach to explore the stress created by poverty on the parent-child relationship as students enter kindergarten. To support her interest in better understanding improved parent-child relationships and the reduction of stress in Black parents, Dr. Anderson was awarded the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (2015-2016) to train with Dr. Howard Stevenson at The University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, Riana was selected to join the 2016-2019 inaugural cohort of Culture of Health Leaders, a new program co-led by the National Collaborative for Health Equity and CommonHealth ACTION with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for leadership development training and to collaborate and innovate to solve persistent challenges and advance a national Culture of Health.


Clinical Considerations

Dr. Anderson’s clinical experiences revolve around an ecological and family systems framework as a primary conceptualization for understanding the interplay of the child and her surrounding systems. She has worked within a day treatment facility for children, a university counseling center and clinic, a community mental health clinic, an alternative high school, and a Head Start center servicing students and families, specializing in the care of ethnic-minority clients. Dr. Anderson currently supervises trainees through the EMBRace intervention.

18_10_12 Riana Portraits-36.jpg

Research Interests

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 10.28.34 AM.png