University of Iowa

Sam Cochran

Sam Cochran, black and white photograph
Sam Cochran came to University Counseling Service as an intern in 1982; this year he retired as the program’s director. With his retirement, Cochran also leaves his position as a clinical professor in Counseling Psychology at the College of Education, which he has held since 2001.

At University Counseling Services, Cochran was a leader in suicide prevention work on campus. In addition to his clinical work, Cochran was also an influential scholar.

“He catapulted the topic of psychology of men and masculinity, along with mental health issues in higher education, into the consciousness of counseling psychology,” says Counseling Psychology doctoral student Shane Gibbons.

Gibbons says Cochran has been an ideal mentor for him and other College of Education graduate students.

“He provided my ideal learning environment — freedom to explore my strengths and growth areas while providing helpful guidance based on his personal and professional experiences” says Gibbons.

Cochran says two watershed events changed the mental health field and especially college student mental health during his career: the first was the introduction of Prozac to the pharmaceutical market in 1987; the second was the mass shooting on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007.

Cochran says the prevalence of Prozac fostered research in and treatments for mental health disorders.

“As time went on, more and more people became savvy consumers of mental health treatment products, including psychotherapy, which led to an increase in the number of studies promoting the effectiveness of psychotherapies, and in the long run resulting in more and more people seeking care for mental disorders,” he says.

Cochran says the Virginia Tech murders dramatically transformed the landscape of college student mental health and spawned an industry of threat assessment professionals and practices.

“We now look at protecting the whole campus community by taking what has been termed a ‘public health approach,’ to teaching everyone on campus how to recognize the red flags of violence and how to refer students who appear to need support or intervention,” he says.

Through his work, Cochran leaves a legacy of breaking down the stigma of mental disorders and the treatments that accompany them.