Chances are, if you’re an Enneagram Five, you haven’t really considered therapy as a viable option for you. And if you’re a therapist reading this, you probably don’t have a lot of experience with treating Fives. There are some clear reasons for this. Today I’ll show you why Enneagram Fives in therapy can grow and how the Gospel impacts the strengths and weaknesses of the Type 5.
If you’re just joining us in this series, especially if you have some misgivings as a Christian using the Enneagram, check out the introduction to this series. As always, I encourage you to read up on Type 5 at Your Enneagram Coach or The Enneagram Institute for more in-depth information. Fives are known as The Investigator or the Investigative Thinker. They like to collect facts and they are keen observers of the world. They have limited social energy, so you will often find them happier behind books or computer screens than at parties. The basic fear of a Type 5 is that their needs will be too much for the resources available.
When Do Fives Go to Therapy?
Well, I told you that it’s not common for Fives to go to therapy in my experience. Fives typically value facts over people. I’m not saying that Fives can’t be loving and compassionate. Rather, they can solve problems by looking at all the data, and that’s how they contribute to their fellow humans. For this reason, many Fives would prefer to read a book or take a course about mental and emotional health than to go talk about it with a therapist. Talking about it may actually seem odd to a Five.
Enneagram Fives have read and studied human behavior among other topics. But for all the studying and data collection, application of this information is another beast. Fives may come to therapy because they realize that they are not meeting expectations in relationships (or a partner or loved one has told them this is true). With the core longing of having needs met and the core fear of energy being depleted, Fives can hold back from giving their all in relationships.
Other Enneagram types may come to therapy because they feel that something is off in their relationships. They want to be able to give their all, and they are more sensitive to what’s missing in relationships. Since connection with other people is “meh” to many Fives, it may be hard to convince them that therapy could have a benefit for them by supporting their relationships. At the same time, Fives are likely to have just a few solid relationships, which are very important to them. If something goes wrong in one of these primary relationships, it will be very distressing to the Five.
Designing Therapy for Fives
In my experience with Fives, therapy does not have the “flow” that it does with other people. Talking about emotions and relationships feels foreign and forced to Fives, and they would rather spend the session talking about theories and techniques than their own emotional landscapes. The therapist must be gently insistent and use intuition to root out opportunities to talk about the client’s internal world.
In Ian Cron’s book The Road Back to You, he gave an illustration of how Fives work that has really stuck with me. He described a salad bar scene. The other types fill their plates with salad and find seats to be together while eating the salad. The Five grabs a to-go container and fills it with salad that he can eat later, alone at home. The salad represents information, conversation, or new experiences. While other types enjoy figuring things out with the help of others in the moment, Fives need some time to digest the new information at their own pace in solitude. With this in mind, there are a few tips that help with designing therapy for Fives.
First, Fives will eat up the homework. Go ahead and assign books to read, worksheets to fill out, and videos to watch. They will do it at home, outside of session, and be prepared for the next meeting. Second, don’t expect them to want to discuss everything with you, even if they completed the homework. For them, the value was in the information, not in rehashing it with a professional emotions coach. Finally, prepare the session with the specific interventions, practices, or psychoeducation you want them to experience. The conversation can lag with Fives if they feel the urge to conserve resources, so overplanning a session is actually a plus. Additionally, they will feel the value of the session being full and informative.
Fives and the Gospel
Fives are a valuable part of the Body of Christ. They can see things that others don’t notice and they can solve problems with insight and expertise. But it might be easier to get a Five to design a new church website than to join your prayer group. Fives need to be reminded that their needs are not overwhelming–either to people or to God. In fact, Jesus has already provided for all their practical–and emotional–needs. I’m reminded of the verse Lamentations 3:23 “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” When Fives have had enough and feel the urge to hide and recharge, they can rest assured that God has fresh new resources for them each morning.
Tell Me About Fives
I have a feeling that I missed something here, because Fives are less likely to be in therapy or to share about their inner worlds in general. If you’re a Five, let me know what hit the mark, and where I went wrong. I’m eager to hear from you!
Next week is our last entry into the Enneagram series. As I wrap up with Type 6, I’m wondering what you would like to know that I haven’t covered in this series. And for that matter, what else are you hungry for on the blog? Hit me up on social media @soulgritresources or send me an email at email@example.com.