Kalimba in Music Therapy
Gaining Perspective on Life Using the Kalimba


When I play, I find the kalimba to be its own little universe with its own rules about up and down and left and right, a universe of wonder and light and possibility, where everything is tilted in the direction of success and wonder. Isn't this a perfect place to learn important lessons about yourself? Therapist Morri Namaste shares with us how he uses the kalimba to help clients gain perspective on their lives.—Mark

I first came upon the kalimba in 1975. I was working in an inpatient psychiatric center where drugs and electro-shock were used to manage what was considerable raucous behavior. There is a certain freedom that comes with being a mental health worker rather than a "professional." Working late night shifts allowed for some different types of "treatment" options. I became quite good at ping pong and pool. When I became brave enough to bring my kalimba (a Hugh Tracey, to be sure) to the unit, well, magic happened. What we were looking for was appropriate self-expression and the kalimba was so non-threatening that anybody could give it a try.

As I moved into a private practice with decidedly less disturbed clients, the goal of appropriate self-expression remained the same. If it is true, as I believe, that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and not the other way around, then the creative spirit must be accessed. When I have clients who are shut down, I give them the kalimba to hold. I explain a couple of things and then we just sit and talk or not. Invariably what occurs is a re-focus of energy into the creative mind and feelings begin to pour out. Not so much in the conventional manner but through little quiet sounds. These timid efforts are followed with some sharper tones. Soon there is an emergence of energy. Since we value talking, the question becomes, "So what just happened?" "What did you notice when you were playing around?" Issues of self-confidence and competence typically arise. My response is generally, "Hey, it sounded good. Give it another try."

There are many avenues to join with clients in order to assist them in gaining perspective about their current life situation. You just cannot be focused on "problems" when you are creating. It really does not matter what you create. What matters is getting perspective and being a part of something larger than what you think you are. It works for me as well.

—Morri Namaste, Psychotherapist, Denver, Colorado


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