Tracy Hill, Ph.D., runs the Center Street Center, a Bethlehem-based counseling practice for individuals, couples and families in need of treatment for various emotional, mental and behavioral health issues.
When the spread of Covid-19 turned the world on its head earlier this year, Hill had to adapt her practice to accommodate to changing times. Part of her practice’s evolution was simply to continue to provide services despite the challenges presented by the virus.
“I think the big thing people need to understand is that services are available as a life-sustaining resource according to federal guidelines,” Hill said.
The Center Street Center, which Hill opened in August 2019, employs several clinicians each of whom has their own specialty. More information is available on the center’s website.
Hill and all of her staff have continued to work remotely and provide video counseling services for some clients during the pandemic. Hill has continued to see about half of her clients in person, with sanitization procedures strictly followed after each appointment.
She has also been dedicating 12 hours each week to providing video counseling services to first responders, pro bono through a New Jersey initiative.
“We’re shocked,” Hill said in response to the toll the pandemic has taken on nurses, doctors, police and other front line workers. “What we’re seeing is sad and difficult for those affected on the front lines.”
Due to the stresses many have experienced in order to fulfill their work duties, Hill said she believes we could experience a second “mental health pandemic” once the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, particularly since many people have been working in “automation mode.”
“Once the dust settles and once the curve really does flatten, those are the people who are going to realize that ‘Oh, I’m not OK,’” Hill said.
Although her work experience as a psychologist is extensive, as an undergraduate student at George Washington University, Hill recalled that she didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career. A psychology class she took her freshman year hooked her on the classic experiments of Freud and Skinner, and established her passion for the study of the mind.
Hill went on to obtain a master’s degree in counseling from West Chester University and then became a school counselor for 15 years. She received her Ph.D. in educational psychology from Temple University, and has spent the past 15 years teaching at various institutions of higher learning.
She continues to teach as an adjunct professor at both Lehigh and New York universities.
In 2015, Hill spent six months in Central America setting up a counseling program, using the opportunity to master her Spanish and immerse herself in the region’s culture.
Hill has maintained a private practice since 2002, and provides counseling for all types of patients.
“I think there is a big need for quality, professional mental health services in the Lehigh Valley,” she noted.
The Center Street Center is a benefit LLC, which means the practice offers reduced fees for certain services. The center specializes in custody evaluations and offers discounted rates for families in need.
Hill’s clients, however, come from all walks of life and visit the center for a variety of issues. She sees clients for major depression, relationship issues, and drugs and alcohol and so much more. “No two clients are alike,” she said.
Some of her clients see Hill because they are unsure of what is happening, but instinctively know something is wrong.
“A lot of medical issues impact your psychological well-being,” she said.
The Covid-19 pandemic in particular has created uncertainty for Hill’s clientele, in part because of how severely it has impacted the economy.
“Everybody’s business is kind of down,” she said, noting that some people have been laid off while others have had to cope with the fear of that happening to them or a family member.
Hill encourages people to utilize the types of services her practice offers, especially during life-altering events such as the pandemic and, more recently, the nationwide social upheaval caused by the death of George Floyd.
Many insurance companies are waiving copays for patients seeking counseling due to Covid-19, which means its cost may not be what people assume it to be, she said.
While video counseling has been vital during the pandemic, Hill is looking forward to safely providing more in person services again.
“The simple act of handing someone a tissue is such an empathetic, caring act,” she said. “You can’t do that on a video.”
“Plus if you come into the office you get to meet Sigmund Freud,” she joked, referring to her dog who is named after the famous psychologist.
When Hill isn’t helping clients at the Center Street Center she spends time outdoors, writes children’s books and publishes Silver Sage Magazine, an online lifestyle magazine she founded which focuses on issues of interest to adults over forty.
To learn more about the Center Street Center or schedule an appointment, visit their website.