Well, it’s the last entry in our series about different Enneagram types in therapy. Today, finally, we get to talk about Type 6. And Sixes do go to therapy, so there is lots to talk about. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen that there is a little different nuance and skill needed for each type of personality that comes to therapy. We’ve also seen how Jesus meets all our core longings and needs, no matter the variations in our personalities.
I hope you’ll check out the introduction to this series so you will have a good background on the Enneagram. I write about whether it’s ok for Christians, and how it is useful in therapy. You’ll also want to be familiar with the descriptions of the Type 6. I recommend Your Enneagram Coach (for a gospel perspective) and The Enneagram Institute (for lots more details). Sixes have nicknames like the Loyal Guardian and the Loyalist. Clearly, loyalty is one of their best characteristics. On the other hand, Sixes are the most anxious of the nine types, which causes them to prepare for all kinds of unfortunate events. They anticipate danger and long for security.
Why Do Sixes Go to Therapy?
Each of the nine Enneagram types could have a mental health diagnosis if their personality traits were taken to the extreme. For Sixes, they seem to come by anxiety disorders quite naturally. Not all Sixes have anxiety to the level of a clinical diagnosis or impairment. But all of them will struggle with a fight against fear itself. Add to the basic personality some life stressors or trauma, Sixes will seek therapy for uncontrolled anxiety.
Sixes might also come to therapy because of breakdowns or frustrations in relationships, just like the other types. Because Sixes long for safety and security, they can tend to put a lot of pressure on relationships. They also fear abandonment or not having their needs met. Sixes are loyal to a fault. They sometimes get in situations where the other person in the relationship is toxic for them. Sometimes Sixes feel that they simply can’t measure up to the demands for loyalty and support.
If a Six has experienced trauma (as we all have to some extent), he or she will find trusting even more difficult than the average person. Because of the natural tendency to scan for danger during times of stress, the traumatized Six is likely to see danger everywhere. Sixes will seek therapy when high alert becomes unmanageable.
Designing Therapy for Sixes
Since anxiety is common in Sixes, therapists can work on basic anxiety management skills. Mindfulness, breathing, relaxation, and even Cognitive Behavior Therapy can be helpful. When the Six has the outward anxiety under control, the therapist can help her identify fears that underlie the behaviors. If the Six is constantly anticipating problems or danger, this fear results in somatic symptoms as well as avoidance of activities or overcontrol of the environment. CBT clinicians will help the client see that the automatic negative thoughts have very little evidence. Mindfulness or DBT clinicians will help Sixes develop radical acceptance for the inherent dangers in life.
If the primary fear of a Six is being abandoned or left without support, the consequential behaviors might be clinginess, codependence, or overbearance. Sixes will stick to a person or idea long after the benefit is gone. Because of this natural stubbornness in thinking, therapy with Sixes will have to be plodding and persistent in breaking down limiting or toxic thoughts. The therapist can help the Six develop self-confidence and a sense of self-reliance. With these qualities, the client doesn’t have to fear so much in relationships. The loss of a relationship does not have to mean disaster.
Sixes and the Gospel
While human relationships can fail and dangers abound, there is always safety in Jesus. He has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). He has encouraged you from the beginning of His relationship with His special people: “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). As with all the other Enneagram types, Jesus meets our deepest longings and needs, and He curbs our deepest fears. Regardless of the theoretical approach of a Christian therapist, Scriptures like these and others build on healthy thinking, anxiety management, and healthy relationships.
Going to therapy is an exercise in “casting your cares” on God (Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7) . By speaking them in the presence of a qualified counselor who is also a Christ-follower, you are allowing God to carry those burdens and keep you safe.
Tell Me About Sixes
If you’re a Six, you have a unique way of seeing the world. When I was raising babies, I loved being friends with moms who were Sixes. I called them MacGyver Moms because they brought an extra diaper, a bandaid, or fingernail clippers. They had all the things my kids needed but I never thought to pack. I appreciate the Six’s ability to foresee the needfulness of things. But I know I missed something here. Tell me about yourself as a Six. Ttell me about working with Sixes in your practice if you’re a therapist.
That’s it for now on the Enneagram series. What would you like to hear about next? Send me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on the socials.