Do psychologists use the Enneagram? (3 reasons)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do psychologists use the Enneagram?” and explore the concept of the Enneagram and the mental health professions in order to understand the answer. 

Do psychologists use the Enneagram?

Yes, psychologists use the Enneagram in their personal working theories of personality and therapeutic practice. Psychologists use the Enneagram because of the following 3 reasons –

  • Understanding personalities and interpersonal tendencies.
  • Stress vs security orientations.
  • A variety of applications in the field of mental health.

These 3 reasons why psychologists use the Enneagram will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at what the enneagram means.

What is Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a personality type system that describes patterns in people’s perceptions of the world and emotional management. The Enneagram divides people into nine personality types, each of which is represented by a nine-pointed graphic that shows how they interact.

The word Enneagram derives from the Greek words Ennea, which means “nine,” and Gramma, which means “drawn or written.” Each of the nine personality types is determined by a basic belief about how the world works, according to the Enneagram. 

This basic belief underpins your innermost motives and concerns, as well as shaping a person’s worldview and perspective on the world and the people around them.

Our primary ideas aren’t always wrong, but they can be constrictive and act as “blinders” for people. Understanding our Enneagram type and how it influences our views might help us extend our horizons and more effectively handle circumstances.

Knowing a person’s Enneagram type might help us understand why they act the way they do. Each Enneagram type has a set of basic beliefs that will continuously inspire and guide them to conduct specific actions and make specific decisions. 

When we understand a person’s Enneagram type, we can frequently explain behaviour that appears to be perplexing or contradictory.

The Enneagram also assists us in comprehending how people respond to stress. The Enneagram reveals chances for personal development and gives a basis for understanding others by outlining how each Enneagram adapts and responds to both stressful and supportive conditions.

Enneagram Types.

Here are all the names and basic traits of the 9 Enneagram types –

  • Type 1: Idealist: Reformer, logical, moral, rigid.
  • Type 2: Caregiver: affectionate, outgoing, caring, loving, people-oriented.
  • Type 3: Achiever: driven, focused, ambitious, goal-oriented, optimistic, extroverted.
  • Type 4: Individualist: Romantic, introverted, creative, thoughtful.
  • Type 5: Investigator: Skeptic, curious, investigative, knowledgeable, open-minded
  • Type 6: Loyalist: Loyal, friendly, dependable, keen, engaging, committed
  • Type 7: Adventurer: Funny, outgoing, adventurous, enthusiastic, novelty-seeking
  • Type 8: Challenger: Intimidating, focused, strong-willed, opposing, rigid
  • Type 9: Peacemaker: Calm, relaxed, conflict-avoiding, peaceful, friendly.

What are these 3 reasons why psychologists use the Enneagram?

Understanding personalities and interpersonal tendencies.

Many psychologists utilise the Enneagram to assist their clients to understand their personalities and interpersonal tendencies. After studying with Ichazo, psychiatrists Claudio Naranjo and John Lilly modified and popularised the approach in the United States in the early 1970s. 

Both doctors noticed the Enneagram’s use in identifying personality and the obvious parallels to their own psychoanalytic expertise. Naranjo wrote extensively on his Enneagram applications, including his idea that each of the nine Enneagram personality types under stress correlates to a DSM-defined personality illness.

Since then, numerous psychiatrists and psychologists have incorporated the Enneagram into their own personality theories and treatment practices. Mental health specialists, religious organisations, huge companies, and leadership trainers have all used the approach to increase their knowledge of themselves and others.

According to the Enneagram, personality is interrelated and complex by nature, as evidenced by the nine-point structure that acts as the system’s emblem. 

As a result, people are assumed to lead with one of the nine fundamental personality types, which does not vary over time, although they will invariably exhibit traits from all nine kinds. 

The ideal way for finding the type is regarded to be self-identification after learning about the Enneagram, however, there are various tests available to assist in the process, such as the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI).

Each numbered personality type on either side has the ability to greatly alter the core type. These adjacent numerals are known as “wings,” and they’re usually denoted by a w. (e.g., type 4 with a 5 wing is notated as 4w5). 

Individuals are impacted more by one wing than the other, yet features from both wings may arise in response to various surroundings. The core type explains the underlying motive driving behaviour, despite the fact that an individual’s wing may influence many elements of his or her personality. 

For example, a person with a 9w1 personality type, like someone with a type 1, is more likely to want harmony and peace since these goals are related to morality and may indicate a strong sense of right and wrong. 

In contrast, a person with a 9w8 personality type, like someone with a type 8, would be more inclined to want peace and harmony with a sense of vigour and authority that would allow him or her to more easily take leadership.

Stress vs security orientations.

In times of stress or security, each Enneagram type takes on some of the traits of certain other numbers. The lines linking the personality types represent the stress vs security orientations for each personality type. 

When under stress (becoming more aggressive and controlling), a person with a type 2 personality (intuitive, empathetic, people-pleasing) takes on type 8 personality traits (developing more personal insight and tolerance for pain), and when experiencing security or integration of self, they take on type 4 personality traits (developing more personal insight and tolerance for pain). 

Learning to discern which behaviours are related to underlying stress or security may be aided by knowing which attributes appear during these periods.

“Instinctual variations” have an impact on Enneagram types. Individuals, according to the Enneagram, are more likely to have instincts for self-preservation, social connection, or sexual (i.e., one-to-one) bonding. These instincts provide complexity to each of the nine personality types by directing each type’s motivation.

Individuals with a type 4 personality, for example, are sensitive to pain, but each instinctual subtype demonstrates it differently: a person with a self-preservation 4 personality is long-suffering and private about his or her pain, whereas a person with a social 4 personality uses pain to gain attention from others, and a person with a sexual 4 personality projects his or her painful experiences on others. 

Understanding how instinctive variances impact the core nine kinds in subtle ways can give extra information and help with type identification. Some scholars believe that the Enneagram may be used as a single comprehensive personality model. 

However, like with other personality theories, there are issues with objective validation and quantitative analysis of the Enneagram. The subjective character of personality and the amount of research accessible are two of them.

Some researchers compared the Enneagram to other personality models like the Big Five and Myers-Briggs and found that its validity was comparable. The RHETI has been proven to be statistically acceptable for research purposes when used as a test to determine an individual’s type. 

Despite flaws in objective investigations, it appears to satisfy the three requirements for personality inventories: predictive validity, established utility, and comprehensiveness. 

Regardless of inherent correctness, we have found personal experience to be a useful indicator of usefulness, and the compelling insights acquired into our own strengths, shortcomings, proclivities, and progress are proof of practical worth.

A variety of applications in the field of mental health.

Some argue that the Enneagram is a more complete personality model than the DSM-5, which is now in use. The Enneagram is related to the alternative model of personality disorders provided as an appendix in DSM-5. 

It categorises illnesses based on certain characteristics and indicates their healthy and harmful levels. In these proposed models, each personality type corresponds to one of the 10 DSM-5 personality disorders when it is problematic. An ill person with a type 3 personality, for example, may show signs of narcissistic personality disorder. 

Many writers, including Naranjo, have made similar claims, although little research has been conducted to back up these claims.

Furthermore, while it is possible that some personality types are more prone to specific illnesses, the opposite may not always be true. A person who satisfies the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, for example, may or may not identify as having a type 3 personality. 

This is an intriguing subject for additional research since it would allow for new ways of thinking about maladaptive coping strategies in the treatment of personality disorders.

Although the Enneagram has been employed by many leadership experts to encourage personal growth, it has also been used by certain therapists in more typical psychotherapy settings. 

It has been used by therapists to assist patients or clients comprehend their basic drives and the resulting salient defences, as well as as a model for addressing object interactions. 

Again, there is little study on this particular usefulness, but previous studies show it might be useful. It appears that it will, at the very least, aid in the formulation of a case. 

Questions regarding a patient’s worldview, ego defences, object relations, basic beliefs, interpersonal dynamics, and self-awareness might be guided by the many elements of each personality type and the dynamic interactions between types.

Even if it isn’t brought into the room, it may assist the therapist in directing inquiries or considering intricate patterns that fit into the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a solid system that incorporates all of the principles that are commonly acknowledged as required for a personality theory, and its validity looks to be promising.

Conclusion – 

This blog post ventured into answering the question, “Do psychologists use the Enneagram?” and reviewed the concept of the Enneagram and the different aspects of the mental health professions in order to help determine if psychologists use the Enneagram. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Alexander, M, & Schnipke, B.The Enneagram: A Primer for Psychiatry Residents. (2020, March 6). Retrieved from https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2020.150301#:~:text=Since%20then%2C%20many%20psychiatrists%20and,in%20the%20practice%20of%20psychotherapy.

Fayard, J. V. False Portraits. (2019,  December 20).  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201912/false-portraits

What do psychologists think of the Enneagram? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/What-do-psychologists-think-of-the-Enneagram

Cherry, K. What Is the Enneagram? (2022, February 09). Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-enneagram-of-personality-4691757

Sloat, S. WHY ONE POPULAR PERSONALITY TEST IS “PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC AT BEST”. (2020, September 28). Retrieved from https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/enneagram-personality-test-experts-explain

What do “real” (qualified) psychologists think of the Myers-Briggs type indicator and the Enneagram? Reddit. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/r/psychology/comments/edgzw/what_do_real_qualified_psychologists_think_of_the/

What is the Enneagram Test? Organizational Psychology Degrees. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.organizationalpsychologydegrees.com/faq/what-is-the-enneagram-test/

Belle, E, How Does the Enneagram Work and How Useful Is It? (2020, June 30). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-does-the-enneagram-work

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