Angela Heads

Angela Heads is a licensed psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Texas. She also works with the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction at UTHealth.



Assistant Professor
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston McGovern Medical School

Professional Bio

Angela Heads, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with clinical expertise in evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression. She also has a specific interest in women’s mental health issues. Dr. Heads’ research interests include substance use and HIV prevention, psycho-cultural correlates of health risk, and racial and gender related disparities in mental health and coping. She recently completed a SAMHSA funded project studying substance use and HIV prevention in emerging adulthood. She was recently awarded a new SAMHSA grant as Program Director to provide substance use intervention and HIV prevention services to underserved adults who are at risk for HIV.

Dr. Heads received her PhD in Counseling Psychology from Texas A&M University and completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction (CNRA) at UTHealth. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She conducts research on addiction and prevention and provides psychotherapy interventions to individuals in the outpatient psychiatry clinic.

Project Description

This project will contribute to the vision of a Culture of Health and the action area of Creating Healthier Communities by clarifying the risk and protective factors for substance use disorders (SUDs). The places where people live, attend school, work, and play contribute to the ability to become healthy and maintain health. The social and economic environment is viewed as an important driver in the mission of encouraging a culture of health. A better understanding of the role that the environment plays in substance use initiation and continuation will allow for development of more effective prevention efforts. SUDs are understood to be the result of interrelated factors on multiple levels including individual behaviors, family and community norms, as well as structural policies. A better understanding of early predictors of SUDs can provide an opportunity to develop interventions that can minimize the risk for later health related complications from substance use such as HIV, cardiovascular disease, accidental death and violence. The proposed project will estimate the significance of various risk factors in adolescents using data from Add Health. Since it is known that health disparities often occur due to limited access to opportunities, this research can provide insights that will inform the design of culturally tailored school and community interventions that will be more accessible to underserved populations. Through a socio-ecocultural lens, we will be better able to address risk factors on all levels while promoting protective factors through prevention.

Why did you apply to New Connections

I was introduced to the New Connections program by a colleague at my previous institution. Attending events such as the New Connections Symposium introduced me to a community of scholars who have an interest, not only in studying health, but also in working to level the field for members of underserved communities by addressing persistent health disparities. I believe that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and New Connections provide early career scholars with an opportunity to engage with researchers with similar interests. My research will be enhanced by exposure to scholars with similar interests and diverse ways of thinking about improving health in our communities. I believe that involvement with the New Connections program will help me to explore novel ways to approach health issues, disseminate information, and change policy.

Research Interests

Dr. Heads’ research interests include substance use and HIV prevention, psycho-cultural correlates of health risk, and racial and gender related disparities in mental health. Her research specifically aims to improve strategies for increasing the availability of substance use and HIV prevention services and cultural adaptation of existing interventions to improve engagement.


Heads, A. M. & Dickson, J. W. & Asby, A. T. (2017). Correlates of  HIV Risk-taking Behaviors among African-American College  Students: HIV Knowledge and Ethnic Identity. Journal of Health  Care for the Poor and Underserved 28(2), 155-170.

Vujanovic, A. Meyer, T. Heads, A., Stotts, A., Villareal, Y., Schmitz,  J. (2016) Cognitive-Behavioral therapies for depression  and substance use disorders: A review of traditional, third-  wave, and transdiagnostic approaches, American Journal of  Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Asby, A.T., Heads, A.M., Dickson, J.W. (2016) Living with maternal  HIV: Spirituality, depression, and family functioning, American  Journal of Health Sciences, 7(1), 15-22.  DOI:

Hamilton, J.E., Heads, A.M., Soares, J.C. (2015) Racial disparities at psychiatric intake related to psychiatric diagnosis, co-morbid  substance use, and physical health status, Comprehensive  Psychiatry, 63, 113-122.

Heads, A., & Castillo, L.G. (2014) Perfectionism and racial identity  as predictors of life satisfaction in African American female  college students, InterAmerican Journal of Psychology, 48(2) pp  269-275.

Stotts, A., Vujanovic, A., Heads, A., Suchting, R., et al. (2014) The  role of avoidance and inflexibility in characterizing response to  contingency management for cocaine use disorders: A  secondary profile analysis, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors

Gilmore, A., Osho, G., Heads, A. (2013) Coping, stress, anxiety and  depression for African American women in academic settings,  American Journal of Health Sciences, 1(3), 121-130.  DOI:

Bramson R, Vanlandingham A, Heads A, Paulman P, Mygdal W. (2007) Reaching and teaching preceptors: Limited success from a multifaceted faculty development program. Family Medicine, 39(6), 386-388.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2018
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities
  • Project Name: Examining risk and protective factors in development during adolescence of substance-use disorders in emerging adulthood

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