Elizabeth U. Willingham, PHD, LPC, NCC

My Journey

Inspired by my clients’ courage, resilience, and capacity to overcome adversity and driven by my passion for educating the community about the human experience of trauma and de-stigmatizing mental health, I dreamed of a center for counseling and wellness that offered a warm, safe, healing environment and an integrative mind-body-spirit approach to health. I longed for the freedom to use all of my years of clinical training and experience in creative and nurturing ways to help my clients discover their capacity for self-healing. Having seen this beautiful process unfold organically with my clients when provided a sacred space and a safe, authentic relationship, I was convinced that health practitioners must bridge the gap between natural, innate healing systems and conventional medicine practices. I personally witnessed the power of self-healing and knew in my heart and soul that there is so much more to healing than standard diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders and medical conditions. Over the years, I grew in my understanding that all of us have experienced trauma on various levels and that these unhealed wounds no matter how big or small are often at the root of human distress and disease. I grew in my appreciation for the many gifts my clients would share with me which have served to teach and assist me in my own transformation.  My personal healing journey moved me to seek a deeper understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection and increased my passion for re-conceptualizing mental health as an essential component to whole body wellness. My calling became clear, and with a shared heart and vision, Kelsey and I created GIFT Counseling Center for Wellness in 2014. The heart of GIFT Counseling Center for Wellness has expanded to include other like-minded practitioners to fulfill our mission.

My Education and Clinical Experience

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). I graduated from University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.

I completed my graduate studies at Georgia State University where I earned a Master’s in Professional Counseling, an Education Specialist degree in Professional Counseling, and a Doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Practice with a specialization in trauma, play therapy, and group counseling. I completed the Mind-Body Medicine training from the Center for Mind Body Medicine in 2014. Most recently, I completed a program at Duke University Integrative Medicine for Integrative Health Coaching.

I have worked in the mental health field for over 20 years in various settings including child advocacy centers, schools and universities, residential treatment, hospitals, and private practice. Upon returning to Greenville in 2007, I served as the Clinical Director at Julie Valentine Center and began teaching at Clemson University, Webster, and USC Upstate. Following my time at JVC, I joined Upstate Oncology Associates and began practicing privately.

I have experience in the areas of traumatic stress, grief and loss, oncology and chronic illness, child development and parenting, infertility, premature birth, child abuse, and sexual assault. I consider myself a lifelong learner and have continued to seek education and training in many areas of health care.

My Practice

I practice from a mind-body-spirit approach which promotes mindfulness and provides a holistic framework for self-discovery, personal growth, and transformation.  I work with children, adolescents, adults, couples, families and groups to recognize and enhance their strengths and resources, identify sources of stress, and create a plan for wellness.

I use a variety of evidence-based practices including Mind-Body-Medicine, Play Therapy/Expressive Arts, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and Integrative Health Coaching (IHC).

I also use complementary approaches to medicine to enhance the healing process and cultivate self-care and self-compassion. I have received training in trauma informed yoga, Reiki, and Healing Touch. I am certified as a Dancing Mindfulness Instructor, and I offer the Mind Over Medicine program for healing and preventative health developed by Lissa Rankin, M.D. Dr. Rankin is the founder of the Whole Health Medical Institute and the bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine, The Fear Cure, and The Anatomy of a Calling. I am honored to be 1 of 25 teachers of her transformational model.

My Personal Side

I grew up in Greenville surrounded by family and friends. I met my husband in college, and we have been married for 20 years. We are blessed with three beautiful, spirited daughters and our sweet golden retriever, Rosie.

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading, cooking, and wandering through antique markets. I appreciate art, music, nature, and laughter. My love for God and my family inspires me to continue along my path to becoming my highest and healthiest self.