Music in the mountains: creating sustainable therapy programs from short-term missions


  • Rachel Foxell



Disability, short-term mission, sustainability, music therapy


This field report describes the experiences of a Registered Music Therapist (RMT) living, working, and musicking during a short-term health mission to Northern India. Using a sustainability approach, collaboration with several  local and global health organisations resulted in the development of a therapeutic music program for children with disabilities.

Disability is a complex phenomenon, and in rural areas of India disability is viewed as a foundation for shame and exclusion. Community-based project Samvedna oversees the therapy, healthcare and education of over 100 children with a disability in remote villages, and is heavily involved in disability advocacy in the area.

Sustainable programs are more effective for individuals and communities in both the short and long term. RMTs and other health professionals can be instrumental in setting up sustainable programs, such as teaching specific skills and knowledge to local teams, provided there is thorough preparation and ongoing collaboration to determine the priorities and expectations of the program.

Author Biography

Rachel Foxell

RMT, MMusTh, BMus, GDTL, Music Therapist Teacher, Glenroy Specialist School, Australia


WHO: Health topics: Disability [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization; c2015 [cited 2015 August 29]. Available from

Anastasiou, D. & Kauffman, J. Disability as cultural difference: Implications for special education. Remedial and Special Education. 2012;33(3): 139–149. doi: 10.1177/0741932510383163.

Rickson, D. The relevance of disability perspectives in music therapy practice with children and young people who have intellectual disability. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. 2014;14(3). doi:10.15845/voices.v14i3.784

Australian Music Therapy Association: What is Music Therapy? [Internet]. Melbourne, Australia; c2012 [cited 2015 September 20]. Available from

Elmer, D. Cross-cultural servanthood: Serving the world with Christ-like humility. Madison, WI: InterVarsity Press; 2006.

Bolger, L. Music therapy and international development in action and reflection: A case study of a women’s music group in rural Bangladesh. Australian Journal of Music Therapy. 2012;23: 22-39.

Mahoney, E. Multicultural music therapy: An exploration. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. 2015;15(2). doi:10.15845/voices.v15i2.844

Brown, J. (2002). Towards a culturally centred music therapy practice. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. 2002;2(1). doi:10.15845/voices.v2i1.72

Swanson, R. & Thacker, B. Systems thinking in short-term health missions: A conceptual introduction and consideration of implications for practice. Christian Journal for Global Health. 2015;2(1): 7-22.

Bolger, L. & Skewes McFerran, K. Demonstrating sustainability in the practices of music therapists: Reflections from Bangladesh. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. 2013;13(2). doi:10.15845/voices.v13i2.715

The Music Therapy Trust. New Delhi, India; c2013 [cited 2015 September 18]. Available from




How to Cite

Foxell, R. (2015). Music in the mountains: creating sustainable therapy programs from short-term missions. Christian Journal for Global Health, 2(2), 64–68.



Short Communications / Field Reports