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Kawa Coaching (Jen Gash)

Kawa Coaching (Jen Gash)

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by August 6, 2016 Online Articles

By Jen Gash. Full text available at


The integration of coaching within occupational therapy practice is often a key question asked by occupational therapists when they start learning coaching skills. There are numerous answers, ranging from taking a coach approach to your whole practice, using coaching tools on certain occasions, “coaching” someone for a specific part of their occupational therapy intervention, running groups based on a coaching approach or using coaching as part of occupational therapy supervision and I am sure there are many moreJ


I became acquainted with the KAWA model around 2006, around the time I started coaching. I was entranced by it and over the years have seen how coaching could be used with the KAWA model. I am not an expert on KAWA (sorry Michael), but love it as it uses the mighty power of metaphor, something I use all the time in my coaching and in my own personal development. So this is written more from my expertise in coaching (and it’s been rattling around my head for years, so I think it’s time to ponder on paper). I believe that a coach approach is probably taken by many occupational therapists using the KAWA model, so my ponderings might not be knew to them.


I will simplify both coaching and the KAWA model for this experiment, as it’s just a starting point. For those of you who don’t know the KAWA model well:


“The Kawa (Japanese for river) model uses a familiar metaphor of nature as an effective medium to translate subjective views of self, life, well-being and the meanings of occupations”


The aim of occupational therapy intervention is to enhance the river flow to enable meaningful occupation and engagement to take place. The river bed represents the environment – physical and social; the rocks “Iwa” represent life circumstances; the driftwood “Ruyboku” represent assets and liabilities; the water”mizu” is life force, flow, energy, chi; the spaces between the rocks, wood and river bed are “sukima” these gaps are small places where flow gets through – very importantJ The model illustrates “the complex dynamic that characterizes an Eastern perspective of harmony in life between self and context”.


Let’s simplify coaching as well: Coaching is a discourse, a conversation, which moves someone from where they are now, to where they want to be. Intuitive, powerful questions, alongside active listening are key to raising awareness and responsibility. Coaching leads to “enlightenment (new knowledge, self-awareness, learning, insights) and transformation (re-creating self, achieving dreams/goals, moving towards something new, being and/or doing differently”.


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