What is The Enneagram?

What is The Enneagram?

The Enneagram of Personality is a model for understanding the human psyche, primarily through a series of nine personality types. Everyone exhibits characteristics of one primary type which can be discovered through a short questionnaire. Unlike Myers-Briggs or other “personality tests” the Enneagram is not measuring a person’s personality, as that changes over time, but instead reveals key motivations behind a person’s actions that lead them to live their life in a certain way. The test is primarily proctored by The Enneagram Institute located in Stoneridge New York. They also host workshops and teaching events. The Enneagram has been used in American psychotherapy since the 1970’s but was developed earlier. At Star Meadow Counseling, we’ve found the test incredibly helpful, both for clients and our own staff of therapists.

The Nine Enneagram Types:

  1. Reformer/Perfectionist
  2. Helper/Giver
  3. Achiever/Performer
  4. Individualist/Romantic
  5. Investigator/Observer
  6. Loyalist/Loyal Skeptic
  7. Enthusiast/Epicure
  8. Challenger/Protector
  9. Peacemaker/Mediator

After taking a short questionnaire, like the one offered at The Enneagram Institute’s Website which costs $10, you will find out your primary type. Most people who take the test find this to be less revealing and more confirming what they already thought about their underlying motivations. The power of the Enneagram is not in what it reveals, but how we can better work with the core motivations we already have. If your family is a strong motivator in your life, finding out you are mostly a Helper/Giver type won’t come as a surprise, but armed with this new vocabulary, you and a therapist can better understand your core motivations and improve your overall mental health. 

Our resident expert on the Enneagram Heather Mitchell wrote a blog post introducing the Enneagram in October: An Introduction to the Enneagram. As well as a breakdown of Enneagram subtypes: All About Enneagram Subtypes. Heather is a licensed mental health counselor in both Oregon and Washington. She has an Enneagram certification through Enneagram Portland.

Heather was introduced to the Enneagram program over a decade ago by one of her mentors. She initially took the test to better understand her own motivations. She found it to be so helpful that she felt the need to show her clients and bring it into her practice. She has led a number of workshops explaining the test and its benefits and has helped her clients understand their test results in one-on-one sessions. She wouldn’t be so invested in the Enneagram if she hadn’t seen the positive results it’s had in her own life.

Heather will be teaching Enneagram Workshops to groups, teams, and organizations. Virtual trainings are available!

We have hosted a number of these events at our Vancouver office and have been extremely pleased with the feedback from past students. Through understanding your primary Enneagram type, and understanding the nuances of subtypes taught in the class, you can better understand yourself and your loved ones. We can’t wait to share this valuable resource with you!

All About Enneagram Subtypes

All About Enneagram Subtypes

Our latest posts have introduced you to the basics of the Enneagram. Today, we’ll delve in deeper, exploring the Enneagram’s “Subtypes.”

The ordering of your Enneagram Subtypes (Self Preservation, Social, or Sexual/One-to-One) is a central aspect of how you show up in the world and understand yourself. The Subtypes are the key biological drives and fundamental values that influence your feelings and actions. You have all three of them within you; one, however, will seem to take precedence in how you express yourself. Knowing this about yourself, gives further understanding of the observable traits that work independently from personality type. It helps with understanding others and their motivations as well.


To uncover your most prominent Subtype, you must ask the question: 

Where does your attention go throughout a week?

  • Are you primarily attending to your material needs and life necessities for security or comfort? That is how a self preservation instinct shows up.
  • Are you involved in and enjoy interacting with others towards a common purpose throughout the month? If so, you might be leading with a social instinct.
  • Are you making sure you have deeper connections, spending energy towards bonding with special others in your life? A person who has the sexual instinctual drive would focus attention this way.


To further explain, the Subtypes help clarify the variation among people with the same personality type. I can have three Enneagram Type 6’s sitting in front of me and although they share very common characteristics of Type 6 personality, their instincts make them function differently from one another. Without getting into the nuanced version of each instinct within a type (totally 27 all together), let me explain the Instincts briefly.



Self preservation Instinctual types are preoccupied with getting and maintaining physical safety and personal comfort needs taken care of. They apply their energy towards taking care of their basic life necessities (maintaining a home, paying bills, grocery shopping). These individuals tend to be self sufficient and disciplined. Words associated with this type might be: self care, comfort, preserving, practical, appetite, ritual, calculating.



Social Instinctual Instinctual types are preoccupied with being accepted and belonging within the social system. They like to feel involved and enjoy interacting with others for a common purpose. These individuals tend to thrive within community and focus on their sense of accomplishment for a greater good. Words associated with this type include: navigating, amongst, cooperating, belonging, systems, participation, everybody.



Sexual (commonly called One-to-One) Instinctual types are searching for a deeper connection with one other. They focus their attention towards the quality and status of relationships with specific individuals. Their energy tends to go towards the maintenance of bonding to others they have an interpersonal attraction towards. Words associated with this type: transmit, attract, favorite, connect, mutual, between.


For further understanding and exploration, inquire about 1×1 Enneagram coaching or Enneagram Training for your team.

The Enneagram: An Introduction

The Enneagram: An Introduction

Being a therapist, I value transformational work. Over the past 10+ years I have studied the Enneagram, a holistic system based on many ancient wisdom traditions combined with modern psychology. For me, it’s a model of personal transformation that leads to a path for growth.


The Enneagram is a geometric figure, stemming from the Greek for ‘nine’—ennea—and ‘figure’—grams, giving us the ‘9 pointed figure’. The actual origins of the symbol have been lost to history, though many of the abstract ideas, geometry and mathematical derivation suggest it has roots in classical Greek thought (Riso Hudson).


In the early 1900s, Greek-Armenian born teacher and philosopher Ivanovich Gurdijeff brought the Enneagram symbol to light. Through his teachings of psychology, spirituality and cosmology Gurdijeff enlightened students to their place in the world and purpose for life.


It wasn’t until the 1950s when Oscar Ichazo discovered the connection between the symbol and personality types that the wisdom of the Enneagram formed what we know of it today. Ichazo unlocked the connection to the 9 passions, based on the 7 deadly sins plus fear and deceit to further describe each persons tendency to ‘miss the mark’ in some way or, as a therapist I like to call it ‘distort’ our thinking, feeling and doing in ways that cause us to lose center.


In 1970, Claudio Naranjo, a noted psychiatrist who used gestalt therapeutic techniques, studied with Ichazo to further develop and teach the Enneagram which grew in popularity throughout the western world. From there, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, along with other authors, have spent countless hours developing further material to succinctly categorize the 9 personality types for us who long to grow in self discovery.


The Enneagram presents 9 personalty types and where each of us may recognize within ourselves behaviors from each type, there are defining characteristics of one that dominates.


What I love about the Enneagram is how holistic and thorough it is. Generally, when clients are new to the Enneagram, I urge them to gather the information, learn about the primary instincts, read about the types, take a test, but more importantly, sit with the information awhile, talk to others who know you best and see what resonates.


A helpful resource to start with is The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels.


If you’re interested in learning more, click the link below to find out how Heather can lead an Enneagram training for your group or organization!


About the Author

Heather Mitchell is a licensed mental health counselor with Star Meadow Counseling. One of her career passions is studying and teaching the Enneagram as a tool for self-growth.