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How I Use the Enneagram in Clinical Practice

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by Dr. Joel Kreisberg, DC, PCC, CCH

I’m excited to be offering my first Enneagram class, with Keijo Halinen, MSc, for both health coaches and homeopaths. I use the Enneagram with all my clients.  For me it’s a tool that facilitates the healing process in several key areas:

  • the ability to relate to the style of learning most suited for each client;
  • the ability to design healing activities and programs that both challenge and reward my clients growth, and most importantly:
  • an understanding my own Enneagram style which offers regular opportunities for my own growth and development.

I’m going to discuss these three benefits here in detail.

The Enneagram, a powerful tool that describes nine personality types or ways of orienting in the world, has been evolving in therapeutic and coaching settings since its modern introduction by Bolivean psychotherapist, Oscar Ichazo. While the origin of the Enneagram goes back to the early Christians, the modern system of personality types was first credited to G.I. Gurdjieff, an early twentieth-century spiritual teacher.  The Enneagram’s nine types allow us to better understand how we look and act on a daily basis.  Common characteristics of the Enneagram ‘typing’ includes, ego fixation, basic fear, basic desire, temptation, vice or passion, and virtue.  Each Enneagram style is connected to two others in a specific order.  For more basics on the Enneagram, please see information on selected sites including The Enneagram Institute, or The Narrative Enneagram.

To be able to identify the primary style one tends to rely on, the wings, or secondary styles that each person utilizes, as well as the style that each person integrates into or collapses towards when we are stressed, is the primary way the Enneagram is taught.  I learned the system this way, and there is really little if any way around it.  What I do with this information clinically opens up my ability to work with others.  Utilizing each client’s style allows me, the healer, to better work with my clients’ healing challenges.  An example will help:  a client, Jerry (not his real name), sought my care for irritable bowel.  From the standpoint of homeopathy and nutrition, the client clearly required Lycopodium, a homeopathic remedy for GI disturbances, plus supplements for stomach and small bowel healing such as betaine HCL and digestive enzymes.  Aside from this naturopathic approach, we agreed that Jerry’s healing topic would be “To be better able to establish habits that support healthier cycles of energy.”  As we talked, itbecame clear that Jerry relies on the Enneagram-6 (the Loyalist) style as his primary orientation.

What does it mean to orient as a 6? The basic fear of the 6 is that of being without support and guidance; thus the basic desire is to have security and support.  A 6’s key motivation is to feel supported by others, to fight against anxiety and insecurity. One could say that the anxiety of the 6 is very similar to the anxiety of Lycopodium.  This translates into 6’s basic stance of loyalty, as a means of not stressing out close relations.  Challenging others tends to put into question the sense of security.  Recognizing this, I developed a healing plan for Jerry that included:

  1. To be more able to extend and sustain the range of high energy and low energy cycles.
  2. To be more able to recognize and prioritize my deeper sense of purpose.
  3. To be more familiar with my interior landscape such that I am able to discern the subtler dynamics of my experience.

These became the goals of our work together—to become more committed to how Jerry moves through high and low energy activities, to become better connected to deeper needs, and finally, to be more able to recognize the impact of interior feelings such as anxiety.  Needless to say, our work over four months led to the complete resolution of Jerry’s GI symptoms, but more importantly,  Jerry became loyal to himself in terms of committing and following through with his regular practices, such as Qi Gong, exercise, and eating the healthier way he clearly knew how to; he got in touch with some of his deeper needs to be in the outdoors and to have quality time with his wife, and he became much more tolerant of his anxiety that was triggered by his friends and colleagues placing demands on his life.

My knowledge of Jerry’s orientation as a 6 was not a conversation piece during our work together, but rather, recognizing Jerry’s “6-ness” enabled me to set up healing structures that effectively allowed Jerry to grow as a person, becoming a healthier version of himself. Since there is no better or worse Enneagram type, the goal is to be more integrated and whole in one’s type. So, through healing work with the Enneagram, Jerry was able toacknowledge his need for support and set about creating habits and relationships that helped him cultivate security with others.

For me personally, identifying as a 9, called the Peacemaker, whose basic fear is of loss and separation, the 9 seeks inner stability and “peace of mind.”  What motivates the 9 is the desire for harmony in the environment, avoiding conflict, resisting whatever would be upsetting and disturbing.  This translates, in my personal experience, as my having trouble confronting my clients when faced with challenges.  I also tend to want my clients to “feel good” about my work, preferring not to disrupt their experience easily.  Knowing this about myself has allowed me to better identify when this style shows up for me in my work with others.  Thus, rather than collapsing into my 9 ‘peacemaker’ mode when a client is challenging my decisions, I am able to notice my ‘peacemaker’ quality showing up and be able to make a more conscious choice as to what is the most effective path to take with my clients. There is so much more to say about how the Enneagram helps my clinical practice.  I could provide pages of examples of all nine types.  I rely on a least three types regularly—the 9, the 8 (the Challenger), and the 2 (the Helper).  This means that I recognize these styles easily in my clients and I am more able to help them more effectively.

In terms of the study of the Enneagram, the upcoming class, The Enneagram and Homeopathy, beginning September 9, 2018, is a journey through all nine styles.  A small group of clinicians—between 12 and 15, will study each of the nine styles, one style every two weeks.  Every other week, participants will learn and study one type with lectures and online learning forums.  During the alternating week, we gather together using the video technology Zoom.  As a group, we will study one homeopathic remedy that best represents the style of one Enneagram style.  We do this in a group journey process that allows participants to directly experience the challenge and the value of the remedy and the style it best represents.  In small groups, we share our experiences, and over the course of the following week, we share our experiences with the homeopathic remedy in view of the Enneagram style. If this sounds like a way of learning that appeals to you, consider joining our class, which is available for a $100 discount through June 30th.

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