I want to do this really well, because that would be important to an Enneagram One. Christians who seek out therapy and identify as Ones are balancing great internal and external pressure. Through therapy and a true understanding of the position we have in Christ, Ones can operate with patience and compassion. 

If you’ve missed the beginning of this series, you can find the introduction here. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of the Enneagram Type 1. I like to use the descriptions found at The Enneagram Institute and Your Enneagram Coach. The first is very complete and descriptive, and the second shares the Gospel lens on the use of the Enneagram. Ones are nicknamed “The Reformer” and “The Moral Perfectionist.” Today we’re going to look at how Ones can get the most out of therapy.

Why Do Ones Go to Therapy?

At their core, Ones want themselves–and others–to be good. Because they usually have a strong inner critic, Ones are keenly aware of the ways that they are personally not good. They have a drive to fix the imperfections at any cost. Ones also tend to be emotionally repressed and afraid of messy expressions of emotion. They may fear that their own desires, if embraced, could mess something up in their orderly worlds. 

Thus, here are two of the reasons that Ones seek therapy. First, they want to fix their flaws; and second, they want to find a healthy way of dealing with uncomfortably strong emotions. But there is also a third reason. Since Ones often want to fix other people as well, they can end up in tricky relationship situations. The One feels resentful and the other person in the relationship feels controlled and criticized. Ones will often complain about other people in therapy. They feel strongly that if the other person would do things “the right way,” the relationship issues would resolve. They find themselves in individual, couple, or family therapy because the system can no longer hold the pressure of their perfectionism and control. 

Remember that Ones under stress tend to have characteristics of unhealthy Fours, making them moody and irrational. A stressed out One is likely to experience mood issues or types of clinical depression. Whereas Fours sometimes enjoy the intensity of their melancholy feelings, Ones feel frustrated by their own moods. 

Designing Therapy for Ones

Ones will seek a therapist whom they perceive to be good and capable. They will want to see the therapist’s credentials and education and will appreciate a tidy office and promptness. A tactful One wouldn’t say anything about these things, but they will be noticing and attributing value to all of these factors. 

Ones may need some convincing, and a lot of patience, that the expression of emotions is an appropriate thing to experience in the therapy setting. They may be frustrated that they feel a certain way about a situation, and they may not trust the therapist’s validation that all feelings are acceptable. A client of mine has struggled with expressing emotions at home, especially positive emotions, even though she can acknowledge the importance in session with me. 

Ones appreciate things that are orderly, productive, and useful. Evidence-based treatments are important, as are books and other resources related to therapy. As much as the Type 1 client will want therapy to be as efficient as possible, it may be necessary for this client to experience something different in therapy. A safe place to feel less in control is a great start. 

Since Ones in growth show characteristics of healthy Sevens, therapists can encourage some of the activities and perspectives of Sevens. Ones will begin to have more fun and joy in their lives as they start to heal and grow. It’s not a bad idea for therapists to create some joyful experiences in session or in their homework, if assigned. Ones do plenty of work on their inner and outer imperfections, so they need encouragement to take a break, try something new, or even mess up. 

Ones and the Gospel

Since there is so much internal pressure on Ones to be perfect, the Gospel has a powerful message of grace. Jesus’ perfection is imparted to us, never earned. We get it for free by acknowledging our messes and mess-ups. Jesus doesn’t need us to clean ourselves up before loving us. And He continues to use very imperfect people in His Kingdom plan. Verses like 2 Corinthians 2:9 are so helpful for Ones: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Ones need that power of Christ because they are often passionate about causes–making things right in the world for those who need it the most. When Ones are in therapy with capable Christian therapists, they discover access to that powerful grace that only Christ can provide. 

Tell Me about Ones

I was raised by a One, so I understand some aspects from the perfectly tidy house, the noisy inner critic, the excellence in work, and the passion for service. Although I do see some Ones in therapy, I know there’s something I’m missing. I would love to hear your thoughts about yourself, your Ones in therapy, or the other Ones in your lives. Comment below or on FB and IG. For real–I want the conversation!