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OTS 126: Applying the Kawa Model to School-based OT

Banner stating the name of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast Episode - School-based benefits of aquatic therapy

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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 126 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast.

Have you heard of the Kawa model?

On this episode of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast, We'll discuss the advantages of understanding this model for occupational therapy practitioners. Dr. Iwama talks about the interrelatedness of the different factors contributing to a person's well-being and performance through the metaphor of a river.

We'll learn about how cultural differences impact the concept of occupation, and how the Kawa model emerged. Additionally, we discuss how occupational therapy practitioners can identify where the clients' water flows and work with their strengths to overcome obstacles.

Tune in to learn more!

Listen now to learn the following objectives:

  • Learners will identify how cultural differences impact the concept of occupation

  • Learners will identify what the water, driftwood, rocks, and river walls

  • Learners will identify the advantages of using the Kawa Model as a school-based OT

Guest(s) Bio

Michael Iwama, Ph.D., MSc, BScOT is widely recognized for having developed the “Kawa Model” (‘Kawa’ is Japanese for ‘River’), the first substantial model of practice in the field of Occupational Therapy developed outside the English-speaking world. The Kawa Model is now taught in over 600 health professions education programs internationally and used in practice across six continents. He has emerged as an important and progressive thinker in the fields of occupational therapy and rehabilitation sciences worldwide. Dr. Iwama is a Professor & Chief Program Strategist in the School of Medicine at Duke University.


"When I have spent substantial amounts of time in different cultural settings, it really, really broadens one's perspective, gets the wheels turning in your mind."

Michael Iwama PhD, MSc, BScOT, BSHP, OT(c)

"Water is the most important component of a river, and at different points along the river, depending on its contents and the river banks and what they look like at the time, determine what the quality of that flow is like."

- Michael Iwama PhD, MSc, BScOT, BSHP, OT(c)

"Sometimes there are certain rocks that just don't go away... but the water always finds a way to flow."

- Michael Iwama PhD, MSc, BScOT, BSHP, OT(c)

"It's really about looking at the person wholly, holistically, in the context of their circumstances and the world in which they abide."

Michael Iwama PhD, MSc, BScOT, BSHP, OT(c)

“Understanding your own rocks, your own driftwood, and all the things going on around you. It really is just a model for better understanding your own life."

— Jayson Davies, MA, OTR/L


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