• Kedar Gandhari

Music Therapy, Hidden Disabilities, and Community Development in Nepal


The Music Therapy Trust Nepal (TMTT) became a recognized charity in Nepal in 2010. It was founded to bring clinical music therapy to Nepal as a way to support the well-being of people living in impoverished and marginalized settings who have multiple challenges, psychosocial, physical and medical needs. TMTT set up music therapy services for the first time in Nepal. In 2010, TMTT expanded to form TMTTN which represents the Trust's ongoing partnership with its neighboring country India.


TMTTN offers services to a wide range of people living with disabilities in Nepal. There are variations in opinion about the exact statistics and situation of people with disabilities in Nepal. Though the National Census 2011 claims approximately 2% of Nepalese live with a disability, human rights activists working on this issue do not agree with this data as this ratio does not seem to compare to developed countries. Accepted, by and large, the most developed country in the world, USA, has a recorded 19% of its population living with a disability. According to the first international disability report of WHO/World Bank (World Disability Report 2010), 15% of the world’s population has a disability. The ratio of disability showing less than 10% in a developing country like Nepal is not so convincing. There are several reasons behind this, among which hiding the disability of family members by the household is prime. The bill drafted for the integration and amendment of the laws related to the rights of disabled people is under consideration in the parliament which has classified and defined 10 different types of disabilities. They are 1. Physical disability 2. Visual impairment (Blindness) 3. Hearing impairment (Deafness) 4. Hearing and visual disability (Deaf-blindness) 5. Speech or language impairment 6. Mental and psychosocial disability 7. Intellectual disability 8. Hereditary Hemophilia related disability 9. Autism 10. Multiple disabilities.


It is the duty and responsibility of the government (all three levels: central/federal/local) to assure opportunity, social inclusion and social security of the people with disabilities. However, due to our traditional concept (disability is caused due to the sin committed in a previous life) and an irresponsive government, the issues of disabled people are not addressed properly, resulting in a lack of disability-friendly infrastructures and service delivery.


People with disabilities in Nepal are facing hindrances in every step of their daily life. Millions of children, young people, and adults are marginalized and vulnerable, with little or no prospects, while families suffer financial hardship, malnutrition and illnesses.

The numbers of health professionals are limited and few resources exist to address these many issues. The poor and disadvantaged have the least access to the limited treatment available.


The "Community Music Therapy Program” is situated in Kathmandu and works in partnership with several organizations in the community-at-large. It provides music therapy services to numerous children, teens and adults with a variety of issues, including those with autism, cerebral palsy and/or physical disabilities. In addition, the program works with orphans, street children, those with HIV and life threatening illnesses and survivors of trauma. The program includes ongoing workshops, to support parents and families and to educate them about ways to effectively incorporate music in their lives. The five community music therapy projects currently underway are:


“Music Club”:

a unique club run by a TMTTN music therapist for children and teens with physical and/or emotional challenges. These are children who have been rejected or excluded by family or society. They work together with a music therapist using rhythms, songs and instruments.

The project aims to enhance self-esteem, to offer support and to help the children through music to express their pain, anger and neglect so they can return to mainstream education.

“Music Therapy with the Disadvantaged”:

TMTTN is working in collaboration with the Navjyoti Center.

TMTT music therapists, children and teens engage in music making and song-writing to help enhance self-esteem, sense of pleasure and improve their social and leadership skills.



“Music Therapy with Autism”:

TMTTN works closely with autistic children and their families through an ongoing collaboration with Autism Care Nepal Society (ACNS). At the TMTTN Music Therapy Centre situated at ACNS many children receive individual and group music therapy sessions and parents attend workshops to explore the use of music at home. Likewise, TMTTN partners with Newlife Disable Center to offer music therapy sessions to 24 children and teens with autism, cerebral palsy, learning difficulties or physical disabilities. The children are engaged in interactive music-making and build nurturing and affirming relationships through sessions with the music therapists and with others at the home.


“Music Therapy Drum Circles with Mainstreamed School Children”:

TMTTN conducts ongoing drum circles with children receiving mainstream education. Groups of children engage with TTMTN music therapists in drum circles that are directed towards helping the children develop social and leadership skills through exploring rhythms, vocal, and natural sounds. Sessions take place at “ Navjyoti Center,” Kathmandu:


The Music Therapy Trust Nepal is self-funded and is supported through gifts, donations and through fundraising efforts. In addition to this ongoing program, TMTTN works in collaboration with Autism Care Nepal (ACN) who estimate that there are between 10,000 to 50,000 people on the autistic spectrum in Nepal. They founded a school that provides specialized behavioral and educational programs for children with autism. The “Music Therapy Nepal” program is located in Kathmandu. There, at ACN, a Music Therapy Centre was created and children receive ongoing individualized music therapy services. Also, ongoing workshops are being held with educators and with parents to enable children to benefit in the most effective way.


“Music Therapy Nepal” has these primary goals: 1. To support children with special needs through clinical music therapy services, 2. To improve the functioning of these children through music-based services that are directed towards enhancing communication, emotional, academic and social skills, 3. Through ongoing workshops, inform special educators, parents and families about music therapy with special needs children and to inspire them to incorporate music, thereby enhancing their overall well-being.

CURRENT STATUS:

- To date, approximately 500 children have benefited from this program in Nepal.

- 200 parents and 100 educators and professionals have participated in workshops.

- There are now 2 full-time clinical music therapists.

- Four volunteer music students and two music therapy interns have come from Europe for two-week to three-month periods.

- Two volunteer clinical music therapists from the UK came for a short visit. T

- The Music Therapy Trust Nepal is beginning to expand it's services to other areas of need.

- Groups of street children are now receiving music therapy.

- TMTTN has recently established, Music therapy workshops are also being organized for the Gandharba community, the traditional Nepalese musicians who are marginalized and need psychosocial support.

- ACN, an NGO in Nepal, provides some financial support in order for music therapy to be offered to the autistic children receiving their services. This project is ongoing and the partnership with the community is strong.

- Further resources are being sought to continue to extend care and music therapy services into other areas in Nepal affected by poverty, health and social issues.



ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Kedar Gandhari Senior music therapist The Music Therapy Trust Nepal gandharik32@gmail.com Facebook: the music Therapy trust Nepal

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