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Corban University

August 11, 2020

Dr. Liz Wosley-George Shares how Counselors can Reflect Christ, from the Emergency Room to the Classroom

“You can connect with anyone,” says Dr. Liz Wosley-George, Professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Corban University. For Liz, the ability to connect with others goes beyond shared experiences, age, gender, or race. “Anyone, if they really work on it, can connect with people.”

This belief was developed over 20 years working in hospital emergency services, serving as a college professor and program coordinator, and actively involved in counseling-related professional organizations and behavioral health care systems. While working on her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Psychology at The Ohio State University, Liz worked as a counselor at North Central Mental Health Services in Columbus, eventually rising to the position of Emergency Services Program Director. Upon completion of her doctorate, she moved to Portland, Oregon where she accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Counselor Education, at Portland State University. She also worked on call for Providence Health and Services, as Emergency Services Crisis Clinician.    

Sometimes her clients would arrive in the ER of their own accord, seeking help. Other times they were brought by concerned family members, and sometimes, involuntarily, under police care. Each time, Liz had to think critically, act quickly, and de-escalate the situation, all while forming a bond of trust and human connection. And she loved it.

“I tell my students, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s that human connection, helping people feel safe in your care and being able to think quickly and assess the situation.”

It didn’t matter whether Liz’s clients shared her Nigerian-American heritage, whether they were adolescents or senior citizens, whether they were well-to-do or didn’t have much. She learned how to help them feel seen, understood, and valued.

While connecting with others is a skill that anyone can learn, Liz finds the motivation to connect with her clients in the example of Jesus Christ. “Counseling is a helping profession—and Christ Himself was the biggest helper. We’re walking in His footsteps,” she says.

The most important part of connecting with your client is having “unconditional positive regard” for them, Liz explains. “You value the client, and you create an environment of total acceptance, irrespective of the client’s presenting problem.” This grace-filled approach is a powerful reflection of Christ’s love, regardless of whether you’re working in a faith-based or secular environment.

Working in Emergency Services for over 20 years while simultaneously teaching at Portland State University, Liz has had a long time to reflect on what it means to be a Christian working as a counselor and training counselors in secular environments.

“Is Christian ethics the same as the ethics of our profession?” she asked herself. Over time, she concluded that the ethical standards of the counseling profession and the code of ethics of Christian counselors were not mutually exclusive codes. The code of ethics of the American Counseling Association seeks to “enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity” (American Counseling Association Code of Ethics).

In 2012, Liz began teaching at Western Seminary, where she developed an added burden to equip not just licensed professional counselors, but counselors who would reflect Christ and follow in His footsteps even as they upheld the ethical standards of their profession. “I learned a lot in that environment,” Liz says. “Spiritually, I grew a lot. The president of Western Seminary was always talking about progressive sanctification, transforming ourselves and being the best we could be, not just for the school but for Christendom.”

Liz’s career at Western Seminary was disrupted when her husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer. “I was in the middle of a class when the final diagnosis came,” she says. After finishing out the semester, she retired from her position to stay home with her husband and care for him. He passed away in November of 2018.

After a year away from her career, Liz felt the time was right to return to work, this time for a university in Eugene that was in the process of getting CACREP accreditation. The job description and responsibilities were perfect, as she had helped in several other institutions as they went through this process.  Liz felt she had something useful to offer.     

Commuting three hours each day from Portland to Eugene and back, Liz would often see “Corban University” on a sign near the Salem exit. For some reason, she felt prompted to investigate Corban further. “I’ve got to go to Corban,” she would think as she drove by.

“I researched Corban, and I saw their mission statement ‘to educate Christians who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ.’” The words resonated with her. After her husband’s passing, Liz had been pondering how God was asking her to use her gifts and her time. “I knew my work wasn’t done,” she says. “I just knew there had to be something I could do to really make a difference.”

One could look at Liz’s CV and see that she already had made a difference—from the thousands of clients she had counseled in the emergency room to the hundreds of counselors she had trained at several universities. But something tugged at her heart that was different this time. She wanted the next season of her career to focus on training counselors who would bring not just empathy and wise counsel, but the light of Christ, wherever they went.

“I came here fully knowing that the goal of a Corban education is to educate Christians who can make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ,” she says. “I am still reflecting on what that really means. I don’t take my job here lightly. I’m trying to listen and see how best to follow in the path of Christ.”

Liz is excited to work with the students in Corban’s Master of Arts in Counseling program. She hopes to help students make a difference not just in their clients’ lives, but in the counseling profession as a whole. Having served two terms on the State of Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists, and as Co-Chair of the American Counseling Association’s International Inter-Professional Collaboration Committee, Liz has seen the importance of advocating for clients and counselors, and caring not just about what happens in the counseling room, but what happens in the public healthcare system, in insurance and billing practices, and in the licensure process. She hopes students think beyond just opening their own private practice, and consider becoming a voice in their larger profession.

“I tell my students that private practice is a good thing because you want to eventually be self-sufficient and entrepreneurial. But to really be successful, you need to know the system of care. My goal is to train students—educate Christians—who will go into public systems and help bring about change.”

In each of these areas—private practice, public systems, and professional leadership—Liz is confident that her students will be able to reflect Jesus Christ in the way they act and relate to others. “Through your actions, through your relationships, it comes naturally,” she says. “There’s no way you can hide it. By your actions, they will know who you are.”  Learn more about Corban’s Master of Arts in Counseling.