Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Integral Life

Name of Innovative Program: 
Hands On for Calm
Sponsoring Organization
Integral Life
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Nancy Maguire
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Physical Address of Innovative Program: 
419 S. 19th Street, Philadelphia PA 19146
Project Description: 

Hands On for Calm is a simple and effective technique that creates an immediate calming effect. It is a trauma informed approach that is currently under utilized. The Hands On for Calm project would create a video and written material in order to teach the technique to a broad base of people. Teachers, clergy, homeless shelter staff, police and others can quickly learn an effective technique to produce a calming sensation in most people. The video would be available on social media, such as YouTube and Facebook. 

You can try Hands On for Calm now. On a scale of zero to ten, notice how stressed you feel. Place one hand on the heart and other on the belly, take a few breaths and notice how it feels. Now switch your hands, and notice how that feels. If one position felt better than the other, do the one that felt better. Now notice how you feel as you take a few breaths. On a scale of zero to ten, notice how stressed you feel. That is how simple and powerful Hands On for Calm is. 

How does the innovative program work to improve behavioral health access?: 

Hands On for Calm is an effective technique that large numbers of people can learn to do. This will also aid in reducing the cost of behavioral health care in a variety of settings. For example, it can help a teacher calm an unruly classroom and reduce the time spent with behavior management rather than teaching the class. When clinicians introduce it early in the therapy relationship it helps build trust and create a feeling of hopefulness. One especially useful clinical application is group treatment. Whether for trauma, addiction or an inpatient facility, group treatment is a common modality. When a clinician teaches a group Hands On for Calm it helps to create group cohesion, and facilitates a new member joining a group. For example, Andy joined a group for men sexually abused as boys and was very nervous. After being introduced by the group leader, one of the long term members suggested the group teach him Hands On for Calm. Everyone agree and Andy immediately felt better.

How does the innovative program work to improve behavioral health quality? : 

When a provider can, during a session, help someone to feel calm it is easier to establish trust, allow the provider to gather information, and allow the consumer to utilize the information being provided. In essense, this simple technique makes behavioral health quality more effective and efficient. It is also a technique that can be utilized by non medical staff, such as parole officers or clergy. This will help them get the consumer to the right care and create a sense of safety. Hands On for Calm aids the consumer in advocating for themselves from a clear and calm place, which will also help them get to the right care. Imagine, Abby, a distraught mother goes to speak with her pastor. The pastor guides Abby through Hands On for Calm. Immediately he can see Abby begin to relax. Now they can talk about Abby’s concern for her daughter who has begun to use heroin, and Abby and her daughter can be guided towards the behavioral health care they both need. 

How does the innovative program work to address behavioral health costs? : 

Hands On for Calm reduces the demand for behavioral health care and increases the health of the overall population. When we can effectively soothe ourselves we also boost our immune systems, increase our sense of well being and this lowers the cost of medical and behavioral health care costs. For example, while Tamika was walking to work she saw two homeless men get into a scuffle while a third man tried to break it up. She was very upset by the experience and found herself distracted and inefficient at work. Her colleague noticed and taught her Hands On for Calm, Tamika was amazed at how much better she felt and was able to get on with her day. When a recently returned veteran enters a therapist office, Hands On for Calm creates a sense of safety and empowers the consumer to enter into the therapy relationship in a  mutual and collaborative way. 


Creativity and Innovation: 

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

― Confucius

The idea of placing one hand on the heart and one on the belly to feel soothed is simply revolutionary. People are often startled by the impact Hands On for Calm can have. It seems we should know it already and automatically do it, teach it and encourage it. This is possible with one video and a simple set of instructions.  Hands On For Calm is an idea ready to go viral - it is ingenious, resourceful, health promoting and so simple young children, those suffering from brain injury and dementia can benefit from its calming effects. For example, if staff and residents of a shelter for domestic violence used Hands On for Calm, it would empower the women, enable to staff to address the psychological impact of trauma and the children learn to self soothe. 


The leadership component of will consist of data collection of the impact, both long and short term of teaching Hands On for Calm to varied populations.  A Subjective Units of Distress (SUDS) scale measures distress on a scale of zero to ten. A measure is taken before doing Hands On for Calm and then after. The data provides the person doing Hands On for Calm a clear measure and by collecting the data we can see the larger impact Hands On for Calm has with varied populations.

Hands On for Calm can be measured by individual therapists, in a classroom by teachers, by a physician in her office, all this data can be used to measure the outcome of learning Hands On for Calm. The video will include opportunity for individuals to assess and report the impact Hands On for Calm had for them too, creating an online data set.


Sustainability and affordability are at the heart of this innovation. It can be taught quickly and easily to adults and children. The instructions are so simple that  virtually anyone can do it. Resources are needed to provide data on the effectiveness in order to gain support from varied professionals, including medical, dental, educational and correctional professionals. If only one person in an organization knows about Hands On for Calm you can then bring it to the entire organization. Mayor Kenney is interested in creating Community Schools that wrap around the children, addressing health, education, neighborhood and long-term success of children. Hands On for Calm would help these schools succeed. Any program that is trauma informed can utilize Hands On for Calm. It actively resists re-traumatization, creates safety and empowerment. 


Hands on for Calm is highly replicable. It can be duplicated in a variety of settings, and the learner quickly becomes the teacher. It can be adapted across settings, from medical to education or business settings. Hands On for Calm can be replicated within a community or culture. It can be part of a religious service, a business or non-profit staff meeting or a family gathering. As a highly replicable way to quickly and easily operate from a trauma informed approach, it creates opportunity for trauma specifc interventions to be utilized. Hands On for Calm has already been effectively used by parents, during individual, group and couples psychotherapy, by yoga teachers, as part of training for creative arts therapists and by a bride on her wedding day. 

You tried Hands On for Calm with the first question, try doing it again and then show it to someone else. 


The Subjective Units of Distress Scale is a widely used trauma informed measure of distress. It consists of a ten point scale, with zero being not at all and 10 the worst it has ever been. A person is asked to assess the current level of distress from zero to ten. Hands On for Calm is then taught. After finding the hand position that is most comfortable, the trainer waits a few moments and then asks for a SUDS assessment of distress by asking "how do you feel now, zero no distress to ten the worst you have ever felt." This assessment can be done repeatedly. There is a pictorial SUDS assessment that children can use. It utilizes faces with varying degrees of distress that correspond to the numbers described above. The SUDS allows for individual, aggregate and temporal data to be collected. 

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