Spiritual directors in the Christian tradition have been utilizing the Enneagram for decades, but in recent years the awareness and interest in the Enneagram has steadily grown and gone mainstream.
Two of the experts partially responsible for the international rise of the Enneagram are based right here in Williamson County — authors Ian Cron and Beth McCord.
Testimonials from Enneagram advocates include former Gov. Bill Haslam; artists Amy Grant, Ashley Cleveland, Johnnyswim, and Drew & Ellie Holcomb; business leaders Michael Hyatt and Donald Miller; entrepreneurs Jeff Goins and Jo Saxton, ministry leaders Dr. Russell Moore, Nate Larkin, and Brian McLaren; pastors Mark Batterson, Louie Giglio, and Franklin’s Darren Whitehead; well-known Nashville community leader and activist Becca Stevens, plus a multitude of authors, journalists, counselors and psychologists.
I sat down on the couch with local Enneagram expert and coach, Dorrie Presson, to ask her a few questions about the Enneagram. Did I mention Dorrie is my wife?
A lot of people have heard of the Enneagram but don't really know what it is. What do you tell such a person?
The Enneagram is a system that describes nine personality types. Each type has a distinct way of seeing the world and core motivations that influence how that type thinks, feels, and behaves. The Enneagram brings deep self-awareness and understanding of others and has proven to be a powerful tool for personal and relational growth and transformation.
As a Certified Career Management Coach, you’ve used personality assessments such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator with professionals in the workplace as well as with students at Vanderbilt University. What is it about the Enneagram that makes it your preferred tool in working with individuals and couples in relationship coaching?
The MBTI, DISC and other personality typing systems are certainly useful. However, the Enneagram is dynamic and more complex, going beyond describing personality characteristics and traits. It explains the underlying motivations for each type’s behavior, the “why” behind what we do. The Enneagram also provides information about our strengths, weaknesses, core fears and desires, ways of dealing with stress, conflict, and more. Because of all the Enneagram offers for my clients in understanding themselves and their partner, it’s the most valuable tool I’ve found for my relationship coaching work.
You are a certified Enneagram coach. What led you to pursue this work?
I’ve always enjoyed coaching and have been a coach for a long time. When I began my study of the Enneagram several years ago, I experienced the impact of learning, for the first time, the core motivations that drive my life. I not only gained clarity about how I’m wired, but also how to move forward in personal growth and becoming my best self. You and I (both Type Twos—The Helper) have applied Enneagram wisdom in our marriage and found it transformational as we’ve discovered the gifts and challenges of our personality type. Even after celebrating 30+ years together, we’re both thankful for the insight the Enneagram offers to help us understand and effectively work through relationship issues that used to trip us up.
Having experienced the value of the Enneagram in my own life, I decided to pursue certification as an Enneagram coach and combine that training with my 15 years of professional coaching experience (in colleges, private corporations and as an entrepreneur) to launch The Enneagram Coaching Center.
Tell me about your work as an Enneagram Coach.
I’m sure that readers of the Home Page can find plenty of Enneagram-focused books, podcasts, and videos, but information consumption doesn’t lead to the kind of personal and relational growth that’s possible with the support of a coach. I not only help make the Enneagram understandable and relevant, but I support my clients in practically applying its teachings, taking action, and making adjustments that can transform their relationship. Much of my current work with couples focuses on strengthening communication and conflict resolution as well as navigating the daily challenges and life disruptors brought by COVID-19.
You are also certified in using the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and have a special interest in counseling with engaged couples and newlyweds. Do you incorporate personality assessment and Enneagram work into that counseling?
Yes, I use both the Enneagram and the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment in my work with engaged and newlywed couples. While the Prepare-Enrich is an excellent assessment and helps a couple discover their strength and their growth points in 12 key areas, it offers very little in the area of personality exploration. So the Enneagram is the perfect tool to add to my work with these couples.
It’s always been our dream to be able to work together with couples like this. I think we make a great team.
What’s it like having me as a boss?
OK, disregard that question. Here’s the last one. Couples seem to really enjoy having both of us together in the room co-leading the counseling session with them. Why do you think that is?
Yes, couples have let us know how much they enjoy having both of us in their counseling sessions. We’ve been involved in similar work in our careers but never collaborated in this way before, and I think we make a good team! We offer our professional training as counselor and coach as well as our personal experiences from 30+ years of marriage. While our marriage hasn’t been perfect, we’ve done a lot right, and couples seem to appreciate hearing what we’ve learned along the way.
Wait, what do you mean our marriage hasn’t been perfect?
I’ll make some coffee and we’ll talk.
Ramon Presson is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at [email protected].
Dorrie Presson can be reached through her website (www.dorriepressoncoaching.com) and at [email protected].