wellness Behavior Change

Understanding and Using the Enneagram Test as a Coaching Tool

Dana Bender
Dana Bender
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As health and wellness professionals, we are always looking at tools we can use with our clients to help them develop and gain personal insights that can propel them into taking future actions.

In the realm of coaching, we are not using the insights to tell a client what we think as their coach, but instead guiding them to set goals based on their newfound self-awareness. One such self-awareness tool in a wellness coaching setting is the Enneagram Test.

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All About the Enneagram Test


If you have never heard of the Enneagram Test, it is important to understand both the uniqueness of the test compared to other personality tests as well as its history. An Enneagram Test provides test takers with an identified personality type based on their answers to specific questions.

In responding to the test, a someone would identify how accurate/ true or inaccurate/ false the statement is based on their understanding of themselves. The exact creation and evolution of the Enneagram Test are debated, but the credit of the word enneagram goes to G. I. Gurdjieff and Oscar Ichazo.

Ichazo from South America initially identified and developed the preliminary Enneagram theory personality types. The theory and test were then further enhanced by Claudio Naranjo and John Lilly in the 1970s when they went to study with Ichazo. Some scholars argue that the history of this test dates back further than Ichazo's work and that others used the Enneagram Test in their professional work.

Test takers can expect to see one of nine different personality types as an outcome of the Enneagram test varying in characteristics and traits. It is important to mention that there is no right or wrong answer while taking the test and that there are pros and cons to each type that presents itself as an outcome.

Breaking Down the Test

In the Enneagram test, there are nine personality types distinguished by specific emotional, cognitive, and behavioral tendencies. More specifically, it looks at what desires and fears motivate a person deeply. Understanding and interpreting the results of this test can help provide insight into one's personality, communication style, motivation, inner fears along with others. This knowledge can help a person not only in their personal life but also in their interpersonal relationships both at home and work.

As we consider insights the Enneagram test provides, it is important to understand that we all have core beliefs about ourselves; others, and the world around us, and these perceptions can play a role in our motivation and deeply rooted fears. Understanding this concept is essential since it will impact how an individual responds to questions on the Enneagram test.

If you are a certified coach looking to utilize this tool in the context of a coaching environment, it can be done in a variety of ways. First, this test can be used either in a discovery or introductory session with a coaching client or as a tool to derive deeper insights into the motivations of an established client. Additionally, you can do it in the coaching session itself, or have the client do this as an assignment outside of the coaching session leaving one with more time to discuss the results in the coaching session itself.

There is no right or wrong way to implement this in a coaching context. You might even consider a paid version of the test and include the cost of the test in the complete package billed to the client. The most important thing to remember is to let the client share their insights; what they believe to be true or untrue about the results.

Ask questions that help prompt the client to identify what they might want to work on or set as a goal based on their results. Beyond implementing this test individually, the results of this test can also be utilized in a group work context. This will not only help the group understand the differences amongst one another but also help them identify ways to collaborate better.

See also Tips to Overcome Impostor Syndrome, which the Enneagram Test can help with overcoming. 

Nine Types of Personalities to Consider

Understanding the pros and cons of each can empower one with valuable insights that can help them with work-related, interpersonal communication, and other personal situations. Listed below are brief descriptions of these nine types:

1. Perfectionist/ Reformer: This personality type values upholding principles, exercising self-control, and being right. A deeply rooted fear of this type is associated with value-imbalance or becoming worse. Individuals with this type of personality desire being right, having high integrity and standards for themselves. Often, this type of individual is hard-working, responsible, organized, and critical.

2. Giver/ Helper: This personality type values feeling connected, being loved, interpersonal and generous to others. A deeply rooted fear with this type is being unloved. Individuals with this type of desire feel loved and appreciated. Often, this type strives to make the world a better place by giving back to the community and supporting others.

3. Achiever/ Performer: This personality type values standing out from others and achieving great success. A deeply rooted fear with this type is worthlessness. Individuals with this type of personality desire feel valuable and are the best at what they do. Often, this type is hard-working and goal oriented.

4. Individualist/ Romantic: This personality type values individuality and self-expression. A deeply rooted fear with this type is having no significance or unique identity. Individuals with this type of personality desire feeling being unique. Often, this type is highly creative driven by the need to be authentic and unique.

5. Observer/ Investigator: This personality type values knowledge, being analytical, and being independent. A deeply rooted fear of this type is helplessness and incompetence. Individuals with this type of personality desire mastery and a deep understanding of subjects. Often, this type believes knowledge is power and likes to explore information.

6. Loyalist/ Loyal Sceptic: This personality type values belonging, loyalty, and security. A deeply rooted fear with this type is being without assistance or support. Individuals with this type of desire guidance from others. Often, this type of person is responsible and likes to be prepared to minimize risks.

7. Enthusiast/ Epicure: This personality type values spontaneity, believes in maximizing life experiences, and treats life as an adventure. A deeply rooted fear with this type is being unfulfilled or trapped. Individuals with this type of desire feel content and satisfied. Often, this type is optimistic and flexible.

8. Leader/ Challenger: This personality type is self-confident and values leading others and being assertive. A deeply rooted fear with this type is being controlled or showing vulnerability. Individuals with this type of desire to be self-sufficient, impactful, and have a sense of control. Often, this type is protective and influential.

9. Peacemaker/ Mediator: This personality type values harmony and being receptive and reassuring for others. A deeply rooted fear of this type is loss and separation. Individuals with this type of desire peace of mind and harmony around them. Often, this type is receptive and supportive to others.

If someone were to read through all the types, they might find that they relate to more than just one. This is because you might score high in more than just one type. So how does a person figure out which type is their primary personality type? The various questions on the Enneagram test relate to the nine types. Based on how a person responds to the various questions, a total score for each personality type is determined.


In conclusion, the results of the Enneagram test can be very helpful in both individual and group coaching settings. Furthermore, the results can provide an individual with insights into their personality which can increase self-awareness for both personal and work-related situations.

Regardless of the setting, while using this tool, it is essential to let the client lead the discussion on which aspects of the results are most meaningful based on their understanding of themselves.

Keeping this strategy in mind will give space for the client to share and determine future actions or goals that they may focus on following the completion of the test.

You also might be interested in another popular wellness strategy called manifesting. Follow the link for a blog post on the subject. 


Alexander, M. & Schnipke, B. (2020). The Enneagram: A primer for psychiatry residents. The American Journal of Psychiatry Resident's Journal, volume 15 (3), 2-5.

Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.

Daniels, D., Saracino, T., Fraley M., Christian, J., & Pardo, S. (2018). Advancing ego development in adulthood through the study of the enneagram system of personality. Journal of Adult Development, 25, 229-241.

Enneagram of Personality. (2021, October). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enneagram_of_Personality

Integrative Enneagram Solutions (2021, October). Introduction to the 9 Types. https://www.integrative9.com/enneagram/introduction/

Sutton, A., Allison, C., & Williams (2013). Personality type and work-related outcomes. An exploratory application of the Enneagram model. European Management Journal, volume 31 (3), 234-249.

The Author

Dana Bender

Dana Bender

Dana Bender, MS, NBC-HWC, ACSM, E-RYT. Dana works as a Wellness Strategy Manager with Vitality and has 15+ years experience in onsite fitness and wellness management. Dana is also a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, an Adjunct Professor with Rowan University, an E-RYT 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher, AFAA Group Exercise Instructor, ACSM Exercise Physiologist, and ACE Personal Trainer. Learn more about Dana at www.danabenderwellness.com.


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