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Behavioral Research

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Since Shanthi Project was founded in 2010, we have worked with thousands of at-risk youth and trauma survivors throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley. Our trauma-informed education benefits children in schools and classroom teachers, special needs children, plus youth and adults in recovery and incarceration. These services have grown every year alongside our commitment to outcome research.

Treatment programs for trauma that integrate mindfulness and therapeutic yoga have been shown to help reverse the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on neurobiology and have positive implications for long term health implications. With the help of academic collaborators, Shanthi Project has been able to contribute outcome and first-hand testimony in order to understand our impact and to guide the direction of our program development.

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We've been published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies!

In-Class Mindfulness Data Set Analyzed

In Spring 2020, the partnership focused on analysis of 900 K-6 grade students’ social-emotional learning data, pre- and post- Shanthi’s 8-week mindfulness program, showing a significant increase in pro-social skills and decrease in overall social-emotional difficulties. In addition, students analyzed classroom teacher and student engagement and how age and gender factor into program outcome. 


Mindfulness for Habit Change Pilot Program, Northampton County Prison

Year after year, our work within the prison and juvenile justice system has proven to be successful based on our outcome data on stress, state anxiety, and self-control assessments, qualitative responses, and positive data provided by Northampton County. For example, from 2012-2014, the overall recidivism rate for the Drug & Alcohol Rehab program was reduced from 51 percent to 19 percent for those inmates who participated in our mindfulness and therapeutic yoga program. As of Spring 2020, the Habit Change Program provides a meaningful new way to understand trauma and addiction in our area’s most at-risk populations. After only one month participation in this program, significant increases were observed in self-compassion (Self-Compassion Survey) and mindfulness/self-awareness (Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale). 


Mindfulness Intervention Research Seminar offered at Muhlenberg College 

By combining interests, time, and resources, we are able to offer undergraduate students in Muhlenberg College’s Psychology Department hands-on experience in behavioral research while exposing them to education, and health and human service needs within their community. During Muhlenberg’s Mindfulness Intervention Research Seminar led by Dr. Mark Sciutto, twelve students work in three groups, under the supervision of faculty and our team, to address Shanthi’s research needs and opportunities within our In-School Mindfulness Programs. The two areas studied in Spring 2020 were:

Student Life

"Working with [Shanthi Project] was this cool enmeshment of real thirst for bettering the world with kindness and compassion. They’re truly a project that models what they’re teaching.”


- Tovia Marinstein ‘20, Psychology Major, Muhlenberg College


Denise Veres, MS, RYT, Shanthi Project Founder and Research Coordinator

Denise founded Shanthi Project in 2010 after introducing yoga to incarcerated juvenile offenders in Northampton County. After learning about the overall childhood trauma suffered by this population, Veres considered the circumstances that led to their incarceration, trained in trauma-informed practices, and designed a trauma-informed platform as the overarching building block for all of Shanthi Project’s programming. She spent the next decade researching the effects of Shanthi Project’s trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness programs on social-emotional, behavioral, and psychological traits that trauma can influence, and expanded Shanthi’s trauma-informed yoga and in-class mindfulness programs to include more than 200 K-12 public school classrooms, after-school and summer camp, and 350 sessions with incarcerated and recovery populations annually. 


Mark J. Sciutto, PhD, Muhlenberg College 

Dr. Sciutto has been at Muhlenberg since the Fall of 2001. He teaches Psychological Statistics, Research Methods, Abnormal Psychology, Psychological Assessment, Developmental Psychopathology, and Advanced Research in Psychology. His research focuses on the role that knowledge and misconceptions of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might play in families’ help-seeking behavior. He is also researching issues of stigma related to Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. Dr. Sciutto has collaborated with Shanthi Project research efforts for the past six years. 


Daniel Massaro, MPHc, Temple University: B.A., Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

Daniel began working with incarcerated individuals in 2012 when he joined the Northampton County Re-entry Coalition. His introduction to working with at risk youth was as a Research Assistant for Dr. Steinberg’s Juvenile Justice Lab at Temple University. Daniel serves on the Interim Subcommittee chair of State Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s Pennsylvania Re-entry Council to further advocate for individuals returning to the community after incarceration. Daniel also serves as Safe Harbor Easton’s Program Coordinator where he manages the residential behavioral modification program he co-authored for the organization in 2015. 

Lesley Williams, MSN, RN, CTTS

Lesley Williams is a mindfulness teacher and consultant. She attended professional training with Jon Kabat Zinn and has had extensive training through the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, Jefferson Healthcare and The Center for Mindfulness, Lehigh Valley Health Network. She teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and courses in Mindful Eating, Mindful Habit Change and Mindfulness for Healthcare Providers. Lesley is a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist and has a Masters in Nursing with over 33 years of experience.

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