Rivers and Rocks? Blocking your flow? Happy memories of the KAWA model ‘flood’ back!

A quick recap of Google refreshes my recollection of this Japanese conceptual framework in occupational therapy practice. Nature, in the form of a river, represents life’s journey. Rocks are the challenges, interrupting the flow.

Year 1: My type of river?

The thing is, I am not a fan of water, a significant mistrust of rivers (think lifebelts in shallow water) approached with caution, overthinking and… avoidance!

Contrast this, to the HUGE anticipation of starting out on my first year’s OT journey.  Desire, expectation, the long-awaited opportunity to invest in a new career. Cue ‘sunny image of the empty river cruiser, relaxing on the calm, gentle Norfolk Broads’.

Rudely interrupting this short-lived tranquillity (and delusional thought) was the nightmare image of a swirling, swollen torrent of fast, powerful and surging mountain water, with empty raft, bouncing over the rocks. ‘OT overboard!’

These extremes invade the daily thoughts of my early OT practice. A tale of 2 rivers!

What blocked my river flow?

The ‘source’ of my river flow a community setting, offered incredible potential, a great team of colleagues and inspiring clients. Unanticipated, (yet now glaringly obvious) was that buried beneath the surface was a HUGE boulder, I interpret as ‘Expectation overload’.  Full of enthusiasm, I had jumped in the river feet first with my OT backpack, overflowing with personal and professional SMART goals, training ideas, strategies for adapting to working life etc etc. Very quickly, I felt disillusioned, increasingly aware of my naïve, idealistic and unattainable goals.

Hurtling downstream, other rocks disrupted my flow, I ricocheted off ‘disappointment’, ‘stress’ and ‘frustration’ all taking their toll on my ability, even with enormous effort to stay above the waterline. This haphazard, rapid and uncontrolled river journey with its cultural and hierarchical ‘undercurrent’ disrupted me, threatening to take me out to ‘sea’, another significant water aversion!

Fortunately, some timely driftwood in the form of ‘courage’ ‘determination’ and a ‘new job opportunity’, floated by, steering me to the riverbank, to pause, reflect, take a breath, and reconfigure my OT journey. Another surreal change of direction, and all in within 3 months.

I remain cautiously optimistic, and grateful for this turbulent river journey. That ‘expectation overload’ was always ‘gonna get me’, no matter where I started work. For those that encouraged me from the riverbank, your support was immense. For my team, their ‘learned’ tuition and support, I am forever grateful. Thank you.

These rocks and rapids are behind me for now, but will inform my future flow, as l prepare to push off from the riverbank, in a new role very soon.  More rocks lie ahead, but I have emptied my OT backpack for the start of this journey, and am planning to fill this en route, in the next phase of this incredible OT river journey.

If you’re an occupational therapist in your first year of practice we’d love you to join the project and share your experiences. You can get involved in a number of ways:

Twitter – @1OTYear

Facebook – Thriving Not Surviving Year One OT

Instagram – YEAR1OT

This project is funded by the Elizabeth Casson Trust 

Photo by Max LaRochelle on Unsplash