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Strength in Music
Jim Borling

Healing – even rejoicing – can come in various forms: a kind word, a touch, a hearty laugh.

RU music professor Jim Borling, a board certified music therapist, believes music can be a source of strength when specific events yield to the need for nonverbal communication and expressions of emotion.

Borling has been a faculty member for 27 years, arriving at RU from the hustle and bustle of Miami. He was looking for ways to move forward in his field and felt RU was the perfect opportunity. “I was looking for a more serene environment, and I have not regretted it one day,” he says.

Jim BorlingDrumming is one of many methods of healing, Borling believes, and when events such as 9/11 and the Virginia Tech shootings occurred, he coordinated drum circles on campus as a way of allowing the community to express their hurt and frustration.

“Drumming as an activity has taken many shapes and forms throughout the history of man,” Borling says. “Evidence from thousands of years ago exists and shows drumming as an important part of any given culture.”

Historically used in a ritual fashion, drumming today can be recreational in nature. Borling says that not until recent decades has drumming taken a more therapeutic dimension.

“How can I be of service?” is the question he wants students to ask themselves. Borling thinks that, as a community, we’ve lost the innate benefits of providing anonymous service. “In a way,” he says, “we have become a self-serving society. Being of service may be as simple as holding the door for somebody. In a way, it is a state of mind.” Service doesn’t have to be a trip to a third world country, he adds.

Working with people who are dealing with addictions or a past history of abuse is a focus of his private practice in Roanoke. Through the Intensive Outpatient Program Avenues to Recovery, Inc., Borling provides music therapy groups. Through these experiences, clients are able to experience healing and therapeutic growth on an emotional and spiritual level that enhances their development as human beings. He says music therapy is part of their treatment plan, and it is important for people to know that nonverbal communication can be more appropriate than the spoken word.

“When I see people that have been fighting and are in distress from different disorders or traumas, and they finally come to a place of rest, it is gratifying for me as a therapist,” he says. “It is pretty humbling to be in that space with a client.”

“It seems to be the nature of most human beings to complicate things.” Borling’s motto for living? Keep it simple.

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