Dr. Kim (Markoff) Rubin ’04
“I never really felt accepted before I walked onto the Eagle Hill campus,” said Kim Rubin, mother of three, proud wife, and an entrepreneur and sole practitioner of Rubin Psychological Services in Michigan.
Dr. Kim (Markoff) Rubin ’04 wanted to be a part of things, but as a young student, never really understood where she fit in. She started off shy like many students, but Eagle Hill School helped her become more confident in who she was.
“I remember coming to Eagle Hill having always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Looking back, Eagle Hill was the first place where I felt accepted by peers and teachers.”
Rubin recalls Eagle Hill as being the pivotal turning point in her life.
“Prior to Eagle Hill, I had little ambition. I had never truly felt successful in an academic environment. Eagle Hill represented the first time I felt that teachers and peers understood me. As I began to experience academic and social success, my motivation to be successful in other areas increased,” said Rubin.
Graduating from Eagle Hill School, Rubin knew that she wanted an academic environment that would support her in a positive way and continue her educational growth.
After a brief stint at another college, Rubin was accepted into the Honors College at the University of Connecticut. There, she earned a bachelor’s of science degree, graduating magna cum laude with a 3.8 GPA.
“The confidence and academic support that I received at Eagle Hill was a major factor in my decision to pursue a PhD after college. Eagle Hill empowered me to want to help other families who were struggling the way my family had before we found Eagle Hill. After much deliberation, I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in school psychology. Although my professors were pushing me toward clinical psychology, I felt that school psychology was a better match with my interest in helping children with disabilities receive an optimal education.”
After receiving her masters of science degree in education and a doctor of philosophy degree from Indiana University, she went on to complete her residency at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, specializing in child clinical psychology. While affiliated with SIU, Rubin provided a variety of assessment and intervention services to infants, children, and adolescents. Additionally, she worked with the Springfield, Illinois, Public School System helping children experiencing learning and behavioral issues within a classroom setting. After receiving her PhD, Kim made the decision to do an optional post-doctoral fellowship. Many of her peers from graduate school were ready to enter the field but Rubin wanted to soak up as much experience as possible to be able to serve a range of families in need. Rubin completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Children’s Center of Wayne County in the Autism Services Program. While at the Children’s Center, she provided comprehensive autism evaluations and behavioral treatment.
After receiving full licensure through the state of Michigan to practice psychology, Rubin took a gamble and decided to open her own private practice. Rubin suspected that she was capable of running a successful practice that was drastically different from those in her area. Rather then rendering run-of-the-mill individual and family therapy, Rubin felt that families would benefit even greater if she built a “support network” for each patient and their family. Rubin didn’t want families to feel alone in the process, thus she made it her mission to develop an inter-disciplinary team for each patient so that multiple providers would collaborate and work together to help a struggling family. Rubin strongly believes that children and their families heal quicker when there are multiple professionals working on their case as a team.
“When I decided to open my own practice, I called insurance companies to inquire about being paneled. I was shocked to hear how little insurance companies were willing to compensate me. I was willing to work exceptionally hard for families and I wanted my compensation to reflect that. I made an unconventional decision to not accept insurance and set my prices based on what I felt I was worth. My prices were higher than my colleagues but I believed that the type of services I could provide was more comprehensive than other practices in my area. Business was slow at first, but I was determined to be successful and vowed to not give up my practice without a fight.”
“I worked really hard to generate referrals in the beginning. To this day, I have not spent a penny on advertising. I take pride in knowing that my practice is successful because of the groundbreaking services that I provide. To this day, 95% of my referrals come from physicians in my area. I have seen people bring referral lists to my office that their pediatrician provided them; I notice that often my name is starred, circled, or highlighted by the provider. Patients will tell me, ‘My pediatrician told me that you’re incredible and that, if we can make it work financially, you are worth the investment. They told me that it would be better to wait on your waitlist rather than going to another provider with immediate openings,’” said Rubin.
Now boasting one of the strongest networks in metro Detroit, Rubin has all the business she can handle. In addition to treating families in Detroit, it isn’t uncommon for Kim to treat children of renown news anchors, professional athletes, and executives of major corporations. Rubin occasionally has families who drive in from neighboring states to consult with her about their child.
“It’s really interesting to see how far word-of-mouth referrals can go. Sometimes a family is so desperate for help and can’t find the right fit. Their friend could rave about my work, so they’re willing to drive several hours to meet with me.
Though Rubin loves that her business is thriving, as her success has grown she has had to revamp her business model, which has been a challenge.
“I have loved providing long-term care to families, but I had to make a really hard decision and lean away from being a conventional treatment provider. There came a point in time that despite being a fee-for-service provider, my waitlist was pushing close to six months. I struggled with the ethical dilemma of having scared or frustrated families wait for services, especially if their referring physician was encouraging them to wait. In order to reach more families, I’ve switched to a short-term consultation model, which seems to be working well. The average family sees me usually between three to five times and occasionally comes back for a quick booster session. This allows me to help families at their most vulnerable points, and while at the same time, I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m reaching many families at once. One of the most common arguments that I have with my own family involves my decision to not hire on additional psychologists or raise my rates to reflect basic supply and demand principles. I’ve interviewed dozens of mental healthcare providers but have not found that special person who knows how to meet a family’s needs the way I can.”
Reflecting on some of the elements that make her successful Rubin states that “I can relate to families who are struggling. Having been a child with ADHD and now an adult with ADHD, I have an easy time explaining to frustrated parents and teachers why a child is failing to meet their expectations. I also know how to collaborate with schools for the betterment of my patients. I have a true understanding of how schools work and am knowledgeable of the tools that educators need to help students with a diverse set of learning needs. I have made a conscious decision to form close, collaborative relationships with the school districts around me. Early in my career, when a patient was struggling academically, I would call their principal as well as their teacher to work on the solution together.”
Rubin’s experience thus far has highlighted many areas of focus. None of these areas seems to be more prevalent than the idea that solid relationships lead to better understanding.
“Over time, I have established trusting relationships with the school districts around me. They have seen first hand how I am able to positively impact their students, giving me some leverage when I go into IEP/504 meetings. One of my proudest accomplishments so far has been that I have NEVER lost at an IEP/504 meeting. I have always walked away knowing that a student is getting the necessary services that their disability requires and not the bare minimum that the district wants to offer. This isn’t to say that my meetings always run smoothly but it reflects that I truly understand what districts need to hear in order to get them to render rare and highly sought-after services.
Rubin‘s clinical approach allows for parents‘ insights to guide the way in which she incorporates evidence-based practices. She evaluates an intervention‘s effectiveness not only through the outcomes it produces, but also by the feasibility, consistency, and ease of the process itself. She believes an intervention's functional criteria are best assessed by those that implement it; typically, this involves the members of a child‘s family or school. Her approach devotes extensive attention toward ensuring the considerations and concerns of these parties are continuously addressed with care. She facilitates these collaborative conversations by means of adaptive flexibility of her role, whether it be listener or liaison, advocate or advisor, or counselor or consultant, along with an innate sensitivity that determines which role is best for a given situation.
Her work demonstrates that this ample availability is powerfully conducive to the success of the child and the well-being of their supporting community. Rubin’s dedication to cross-channel communication is what distinguishes her as a practitioner, and by uniting her expansive clinical expertise, forms a distinctive cornerstone of her practice.
Rubin strongly credits Eagle Hill School for helping her be the practitioner that she is today. Kim noted how the qualities of her teachers at Eagle Hill were instrumental in helping her overcome challenges at the time.
“I remember having mentors and friends at Eagle Hill School like Ken Leyva (resident counselor), Dana Harbert (director of admission), Cindy Coughlin (athletic director), Jason Przypek (IB diploma program coordinator), and Jenna Hubacz (dean of faculty). I find myself occasionally reflecting on the approaches that Eagle Hill teachers used with me, especially when I’m working with challenging families. Most notably, EHS faculty members never gave up on me—ever. When I was resistant to help, they always found a way to meet my needs.”
This approach from her mentors at Eagle Hill has directly impacted how she works with her own patients. A specific instance came to mind when Rubin reflected on the impact EHS has had on her life and her own profession.
“Not too long ago, a family came to see me after being referred by their physician, as their child’s academic and social functioning was continuing to deteriorate. The patient was an eight-year-old female with mild autism spectrum disorder. She was really smart; her IQ was much higher than mine. However, teachers were struggling to teach her very basic academic skills. Once I reviewed her case history and met with her family, it was incredibly clear to me what she needed. From talking to her school, I determined that the school was encountering behavioral interference (associated with her ASD) that was making it near impossible for them to educate her. Her learning profile suggested that skill establishment needed to occur in a highly structured manner in which teachers used developmentally appropriate rewards and consequences to shape emerging skills. These skills would need to be scaffolded very systematically and it would likely result in her excelling across academic subjects,” explained Rubin.
Despite her confidence in finding a solution for this patient, Rubin was met with some challenges that made it difficult to continue.
“Unfortunately, I encountered the same barrier as previous therapists. Her family belonged to a religious organization which discouraged the use of rewards and consequences in the manner that the child needed. I was stuck on how to help their daughter because every alternative intervention that I could brainstorm had already been tried and failed. As tempted as I was to give up and send her case back to the referring physician, I had to remind myself of the countless EHS teachers who never gave up on me. In a last-ditch effort, I asked the family for permission to speak to their pastor in hopes that he could help me understand why using rewards and consequences to facilitate learning would be discouraged. It was not my intention to convince him that my method was the ‘right’ way; I just simply wanted to have a better understanding in hopes that some other idea would come to mind.”
Though unorthodox in nature, Rubin hoped to find a solution through better understanding.
“When I called him, he was initially confused as to why I was reaching out to him. I explained how one of his congregants was struggling because her brain was developing differently than other children her age. I went on to explain how this was resulting in teachers being unable to educate her. I continued to explain how special teaching is used when children learn differently. I anticipated that our conversation would be mostly me asking questions but it quickly went off track once we started talking about multidisciplinary learning approaches. He latched on to the term ‘special teaching,’ which I used to describe how a teacher would use rewards and consequences to foster skill development in an academic context. Our phone conversation went almost an hour, and surprisingly, he felt ‘special teaching’ would not be contraindicated by their religious beliefs; in fact, he wanted the family to use ‘special teaching’ at home too. He had a meeting with the family which then led to the family accepting the ancillary behavioral services that their daughter needed in order to learn.”
A few weeks after this meeting, Rubin received a curious call that spoke volumes to the impact and commitment that she has to her patients.
“A few weeks later, he called to thank me for helping him write his sermon for that week, which was about special teaching. He wanted his congregants to understand how special teaching could be adapted to help kids with a number of challenges at home and school. Like many people understand at Eagle Hill, I was happy to see how changing one person’s perception of learning can make a meaningful difference in the lives of many different learners.”
With all of her amazing success, Rubin still feels a special place in her heart for Eagle Hill School.
“I grew so much at EHS, and I’m so happy to be able to give back in any way I can to the school that helped me grow. It’s such a special place. I’m excited to see students continuing to thrive and learn how to advocate for themselves just like I learned how to at EHS.”
To Dr. Michael Riendeau, assistant head of school for academic affairs, it is no surprise that Rubin has continued to thrive in many aspects of her life.
“When I remember Kim as a high school student, what comes to mind first is her unwavering drive for excellence, supported by her unflagging resilience. These are followed quickly by memories of her infectious enthusiasm for learning and her expressions of genuine joy in encountering new ideas,” said Riendeau.
This enthusiasm most recently led Rubin to landing on The Well and JN’s 36 Under 36, a distinctive honor that recognizes the amazing impact she has had on her community.
Today, Rubin balances her busy work life with her amazing family, including her three children, Reece, Brooks, and Chase, and her husband, Mike.
Kim Rubin continues to dedicate her life to ensuring children and young adults have the same opportunities and personal growth she did, always representing the very best of what it means to be an alum of Eagle Hill School.