Most Enneagram writings don’t start with Type 7. After talking to a Seven friend, I think they probably can’t wait! Maybe that’s why other authors leave Sevens for last, so that they will have to read the whole thing. In last week’s post, I shared some of my thoughts about Christians and the Enneagram. Over the next few weeks I will offer short posts that will cover each of the Enneagram types in therapy.
Why do Sevens need to go first? Because sometimes reading about other people is not as fun as reading about yourself! In these posts I’ll be painting broad strokes when it comes to type descriptions. I encourage you to view the description of Type 7 from The Enneagram Institute or Your Enneagram Coach. Sevens are fun and exciting, often creative and well-rounded. On the negative side, Sevens can be self-absorbed and escapists.
Do Sevens Even Go to Therapy?
When I decided to cover therapy with Enneagram types, I thought through the clients I have had over the years. I realized that I could not identify any one of my clients as a Type 7. It made me wonder, do Sevens even go to therapy? I asked a friend who I know shows interest in therapy and is a Type 7. Although she was surprised that I didn’t have Sevens on my caseload, it immediately made sense to her. Her quote: “Probably because we self-medicate with the next fun thing!” Another friend confirmed that his Type 7 mother had struggled through her life because of both these things. She is frequently self-medicating and moving on to the next thing, whether that be a relationship, home, job, or activity.
All this is not to say that Sevens can’t see and feel the need for therapy. My friend quoted above has tried it a few times. She knows that there are some things to work out in her past, some emotions to work through, and some new behaviors and patterns that would help her family. However, when she did go to therapy, she got bored quickly. Now, I’m biased, but I have never thought therapy was boring. Challenging, yes, but not boring.
Designing Therapy for Sevens
Piecing together what we know about Sevens can help us design a therapy experience that will work for them. The criteria: fun, fast-paced, and over quickly so they can move on. When considering what theoretical approaches and techniques might be best, therapists can think in terms of brief therapy, solution-focused interventions, and short-term, attainable goals. While the client may have several long-term goals or complex issues to work through, it is better to “chunk” them into bite-sized pieces and allow the client to cycle in and out of therapy over a period of time.
When designing interventions, consider that your Type 7 client has a high need for fun and excitement. That means that standard talk therapy session after session might not be sustainable. If your scope of competency allows, consider bringing in other types of sessions, such as walk and talk or other outdoor activities. Art and music therapy, sand tray, and games can also be helpful. In-session movement such as Satir’s family sculpture or even moving around the room to different positions (sitting on the floor, standing to use a whiteboard, etc) can help keep these fast-paced clients engaged. According to the Enneagram Institute, “Sevens are frequently endowed with quick, agile minds, and can be exceptionally fast learners.” Therapists may prepare more for these sessions to keep them fresh and moving.
The Inner Workings
Sevens are always seeking to avoid pain. They will have some distractions built around them to diminish inner turmoil that threatens to surface. At their unhealthiest, they will be panicky and depressed. Along that road, they may exhibit impulsive behavior and a tendency towards addiction. Each Enneagram type, in its extreme, sounds like a clinical diagnosis. Some of the diagnoses you might see in very unhealthy Sevens are histrionic personality disorder, bipolar, and substance abuse disorders. Sometimes it might feel like Sevens could have ADHD, as well. Their attention span can be short and their minds are brimming with ideas and distractions.
As the therapists for Sevens (if they actually come to therapy), we can help them learn to be ok with sitting in painful places. Messy emotions are just as valuable as pleasant emotions. Sevens can learn to identify their true desires and how to fill them instead of flitting from one thing to another attempting not to miss anything.
Sevens and the Gospel
The continual search for fun and excitement may distract Sevens from finding the true source of joy, which is in God. At YourEnneagramCoach.com, Beth McCord writes about healthy Sevens. “They see that being Christ’s beloved child means that they have everything they need and desire to bring them the lasting satisfaction and happiness their heart is craving.” Understanding this about the Gospel of Jesus helps Sevens focus on what’s important. Christian therapists can help Type 7 clients to find this satisfaction and happiness in Jesus. Remember, God is the One who thought of FUN in the first place. Christian therapists should not be afraid to incorporate humor, creativity, movement, and a fast pace into the therapy process.
Tell Me about Sevens
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my experience with Sevens in therapy is not extensive. How about you? Are you a therapist who has seen Sevens in your practice? Are you a Seven yourself? What tips can you add?