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Academic psychology: COE's counselor helps students excel

David Lacocque

Counselor David Lacocque (large image)

There is a misperception that people go to counselors only when there are no other options. The College of Engineering's new counselor, David Lacocque, would like to change that.

"I'd like to encourage students to be more proactive," he says. "I think sometimes the first sign that things could be better is not when someone thinks, 'Hey there is something wrong,' but more often when people around them will say, 'Hey, I'm concerned.' It's easy to dismiss other people's worries, but that is a good time to come in and ask if maybe there is a better way to go about the business of being a student."

The college offers counseling through University Health Service. Lacocque's office is located off the College of Engineering campus at 905 University Ave., a location that helps maintain confidentiality.

"We think that it is important to have someone dedicated to working with engineering students," says Sarah Pfatteicher, COE assistant dean for academic affairs. "It's important to the college to have someone who can understand the culture and atmosphere that our students live and work in every day."

Engineers are, of course, problem solvers. Given the culture, Lacocque thinks some may be less inclined to seek help. "Engineering is a very success-oriented environment," he says. "Some people may feel they have to solve their own problem or perhaps feel that it is a failure to ask for help, but I think that students in general would be surprised to find out how many students are getting help, in one form or another, from other people."

Rather than consider the counseling center a place where people go to fix something that is broken, Lacocque wants students, faculty and staff to view it as a place to enhance performance. Athletes, he points out, have been doing this for years. It's called sports psychology. Lacocque would like his service viewed as academic psychology.

"There are strategies for improving performance on exams that go beyond study habits," Lacocque says. "'We can help people look at the whole picture. I think my role is, in part, to help students to pay attention and create balance in their lives and be sure that all of what they need is being attended to."

Lacocque earned a BA in psychology from Carleton College and his PhD from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. He has years of experience working with young adults in a variety of settings including individual therapy, couples therapy, group therapy and crisis intervention. He joined University Health Service and the College of Engineering in the fall.

When not serving as counselor, Lacocque teaches courses in psychopathology and psychotherapy for the UW-Madison Schools of Social Work and Psychology.

For further information or to contact Lacocque, please visit