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Development of a Kawa Model workshop for patients of an adult community mental health team

Development of a Kawa Model workshop for patients of an adult community mental health team


Author: B, Beki, Dellow, Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, Christchurch & Southbourne Community Mental Health Team, Dorset, UK.  Second presenter: H, Hannah, Skeels, Occupational Therapy Student, Bournemouth University

Presentation Type: Seminar.

Introduction: A Kawa Model (Iwama 2006) Workshop was developed to help promote occupational engagement and recovery for service users of the adult community mental health team who were referred to the occupational therapist for treatment.


The Kawa Model uses the metaphor of a river to describe a person’s life story and current circumstances (Kawa cross-section) and help them to share elements with others that they feel are significant (Iwama 2006; Iwama 2013). Participants were introduced to the Kawa Model with a short presentation and then supported to create their personal cross-sections. The eight week workshop focused on developing participants’ understanding of and use of the Kawa Model. A final Kawa cross-section was created by each person to measure change.

An outcome of the intervention was the development of a social group to help to reduce social isolation, encourage friendships and a support network.


Using the The Kawa Model has proved to be an effective way to enable people with mental health difficulties to explore and share their problems and work together collectively and individually to find solutions and strategies to improve life flow (river water), reduce or remove problems (rocks), examine environmental influences (river sides and bed) and utilise personal qualities/skills (driftwood).

Impact on service users:

The Kawa Model encouraged communication between participants during the workshop sessions, helping them to identify common experiences/themes such as depression, poor motivation and poor self-esteem. Being able to share personal stories without judgement and facing the stigma of mental illness helped to increase confidence, self-understanding and self-management.

Clear implications for occupational therapy:

The Kawa Model proved to be an effective tool to enhance understanding of participants difficulties, set goals and inform future personalised treatment.


Iwama MK (2006) The Kawa Model: Culturally Relevant Occupational Therapy Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier

Iwama MK (2013) Occupational Therapy News Future-proofing OT for a multicultural world 21(3), 35


Link:  final-kawa-model-workshop-poster-may-2016-cot


One commentcomments2

  1. A great find this site. It allows me to connect with others who understand this amazing model. My question to you is how can you use KAWA in a group. As part of our project we are conducting an intervention for a group of asylum seekers in our local area. We are however struggling how to use the KAWA in a group format where language is a barrier.

    I wonder if there was any advice you could give for this type of scenario. Also we need to be about to measure it’s outcomes again difficult in a group scenario.

    • This is an interesting question, Matt. Please send us an email or message us on Facebook and we can connect you with some other practitioners

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