Published Articles

Published in International Doula
Volume 22 – 2015


Enneagram Personality Typing

How This Practice Can Support the Doula-Client Relationship and Contribute to an Empowering Birth

By Nechama Robinson, MA

PersonalityThe Enneagram system of personality analysis, with roots dating back to fourth-century mysticism, has been studied across continents and through the ages to promote self-awareness and spiritual growth. Various interpretations of the Enneagram’s nine core personality types have been developed, and authors from a variety of disciplines have applied the wisdom of the Enneagram to challenges that arise in a range of business and family dynamics.

The doula-client relationship is a working personal partnership. It holds a delicate balance between professionalism and intimacy, demanding an extremely high degree of personalized attunement and boundary awareness of the doula. Many practitioners believe the Enneagram can help by serving as a valuable instrument for informing the assessment, communication and intervention that are the essence of the doula practice.

Each of the nine personality types can be defined in relation to three essential characteristics: core fear (CF), core motivation (CM) and action goal (AG). Each core fear is based on a fundamental truth of the human condition. Because nothing can be done to change the reality that precipitates the fear, each personality type transforms its fear into a core motivation and action goal that help the emotional threat evolve into a more manageable experience.

Enneagram Chart

On the next page is a chart outlining the nine personality types and their respective core fears, core motivations and action goals. This chart also includes the underduress Communication Style group (CS-group) information explained on the next page.

Determining your client’s personality type

The first step in using the Enneagram to better serve your client is to determine your client’s personality type. For the purposes of this article, the nine Enneagram types can be split into three groups.

Phase one of the informal assessment suggested here is to match your client with one of the groups listed above by determining which of the three statements listed below best describes her. Use your best judgment to decide if you already have a clear sense of where your client fits, or if it would help to ask her to choose the statement that she identifies with the most.

Statement A: “I will be upset with everyone involved if the birth does not proceed as expected.”

Clients in this group are most likely to fit type 1, 3 or 8 (CS-group A).

Statement B: “I wish I did not need so much support and do not want to impose on those who will be there at the birth.” Clients in this group are most likely to fit type 2, 5 or 9 (CS-group B).

Statement C: “I will either start crying or panicking if I begin feeling overwhelmed at the birth.” Clients in this group are most likely to fit type 4, 6 or 7 (CS-group C). Having narrowed down your client’s stress communication style (CS), you can use the guiding questions for her CSgroup to finalize assessment of her specific personality type. If your client is in CS-group A, ask her which of the following statements best describes her.

Statement A1: “I would like to be supported through a bit of recovery time after the birth.” This statement indicates your client has a type 1 personality.

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Statement A2: “I look forward to getting back on my feet as soon as possible after the birth.” This statement indicates your client has a type 3 personality.

Statement A3: “I am already feeling impatient at the thought of having to take it easy for a few days after the birth.” This statement indicates your client has a type 8 personality.

If your client is in CS-group B, ask her which of the following statements best describes her.

Statement B1: “I am already thinking about how to give back to everyone who will be there to support me at the birth.” This statement indicates your client has a type 2 personality.

Statement B2: “I want to concentrate all my energies on bonding with my baby from the moment he or she is born.” This statement indicates your client has a type 5 personality.

Statement B3: “I would like to join some local moms groups as soon as I can after the birth.” This statement indicates your client has a type 9 personality. If your client is in CS-group C, ask her which of the following statements best describes her.

Statement C1: “It will make a big difference to know that I have someone who cares to confide in and lean on after the birth.” This statement indicates your client has a type 4 personality.

Statement C2: “I’m not sure what I will need the most after the birth. I’ll want to be left alone some times, and get lots of support at other times.” This statement indicates your client has a type 6 personality.

Statement C3: “I just want to have fun with my baby. I can’t wait to play outside and be silly and dance around with my baby.” This statement indicates your client has a type 7 personality.

Understanding your client’s personality type

Once you have matched your client to a particular personality type, an understanding of her type can help you relate to her as an individual and respond to her particular needs. Specifically, this article offers a more in-depth discussion of each core fear and how it can come into play during birth, facilitating your synchronicity with your client’s internal process and what she needs to best cope with her fears.

Referring to the chart of the nine personality types, below is a review of each personality type as it informs sensitivity to the fears that each client brings to her birthing process.

Type 1: This client has a deep need for the safety that comes from predictability. Her greatest fear stems from the knowledge that safety cannot be guaranteed. She responds to her fear with a strong loyalty to the laws of cause and effect, committing her own intent to following the rules that “should” guarantee safe results. In the context of birthing, this would likely translate into reading up on all the latest birthing resources and techniques, planning every last detail of the birth and baby arrival well in advance and expecting that her efforts will yield the desired results.

The Type 1 client is often high strung and nonemotional in her communication. While she makes sure to convey her need for boundaries, she expects that the doula will take the lead with professionals and family members when necessary. This can be a challenge for the doula, who has become wise to the consequences of overstepping her boundaries with this particular client. It may help to remember that, underneath it all, this client has hired the doula to help guarantee her safety during the birth.

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Although this client may have unrealistic expectations of the doula, if the doula shows full commitment to her responsibilities as specified in the doula-client contract, she will be perceived as an ally. To this client, actions speak louder than words. Although this client may feel the need to place fault if everything does not go as planned, words are not likely to turn around a sticky situation with this client. However, best practices and true good-faith efforts will serve both client and doula well.

Type 2: This client is sensitized to the needs of everyone around her. Her greatest fear comes from the knowledge that her own needs may overwhelm her so much that she will not have the ability to stay tuned in to the needs of others. She responds to her fear by making even more of an effort to take care of everyone else every moment that she can.

The Type 2 client’s resistance to being taken care of can backfire by leading to inadequate preparation for the various scenarios that might require intervention at the birth. Although it can become a challenge for the doula to engage this client in anticipating potential discomforts and obstacles that might arise, it can help to remember that this client responds best to reassurance as opposed to dismissing messages. In other words, affirming this client’s concern for others while reassuring her that you or someone else is on top of it is likely to be more effective than telling this client that she should stop worrying about others and start focusing on herself.

Type 3: This client prioritizes success in all her endeavors, including the endeavor of giving birth. Her greatest fear comes from the knowledge that success is not guaranteed. This client responds to her fear by positioning herself to be aware of every detail that may impact the success of the birth, so as to give herself the opportunity to pre-empt any potential threats to success. This can pose a challenge to the doula, who knows that relaxation is key to optimizing the success of the birth experience. Respecting this client’s leadership talents and exploring her definition of success are critical to helping her feel as supported and relaxed as possible. When this client feels respected, she will communicate thoughtfully, openly and responsively. When she is treated as an equal, she is most likely to respond in kind and give the doula all the information she needs to succeed in her role as birth partner.

Type 4: This client is a deeply emotional individual whose greatest fear comes from the knowledge that pain knows no bounds. She responds to her fear by honoring it with every ounce of her being. This client’s emotional expressiveness is likely to show itself full force at the birth. Her communication style is likely to overwhelm all but the most hearty birth supporters. It may be a challenge to the doula to distinguish this client’s physical and emotional venting from any alarming communication. It may also be challenging to help other birth supporters understand this distinction.

It is crucial to build a strong intuitive connection with this client (and, if possible, her birth supporters as well) prior to the birth. In light of this client’s dramatic communication style, it is easy to forget that her signals of alarming distress are likely to be subtle. In preparation for the birth, asking this client to share her past birth (or other physically and emotionally taxing experiences) can help the doula become familiar with both triggers and cues that correlate to this client’s need for more active intervention.

Type 5: This client is generally analytical and is not accustomed to engaging fully in her physical experience. Her greatest fear comes from the knowledge that the truth can be misrepresented and hidden. She responds to her fear by challenging every bit of information presented to her to make sure it passes her most critical analytical breakdown. It may be challenging for the doula to build a cohesive and comprehensive birth plan “forest,” as this client continues to isolate and relentlessly process each “tree” of the anticipated experience.

Mutual trust is the key to cooperation with this client. It may help to remember that at the root of every overanalyzed thought this client has, there is a legitimate concern or perspective. Keeping this in mind and seeking to understand the client’s reasoning will facilitate a productive and satisfying relationship for both doula and client.

Type 6: This client can easily become scattered and anxious. Her greatest fear is that she may have no influence over how others perceive her. This can motivate a frenetic attempt to connect with too many people and places at once in an effort to neutralize any potential threat of leaving an undesirable impression. It may be challenging for the doula to keep this client focused on the objectives at hand. This client is likely to fall into a downward spiral, where fears surrounding the birth itself alternate with anxiety about others’ perceptions of her.

The Type 6 client is as challenging as she is sophisticated in her emotional process. This client’s resistance to staying in one place (literally and figuratively), combined with her hyper vigilant, peripheral awareness, can create an experience of chaos for her and those around her. Serving this client’s needs is best accomplished within a balance of the doula’s own inner calm and an acceptance that the client’s wisdom, hidden though it may be, is one of her greatest gifts. Like managing a room full of preschoolers, working with this client successfully requires being open to learning and teaching in equal measure.

Type 7: This client is naturally connected to the visceral experience of life, highly aware of physical sensation. Her greatest fear comes from knowing that it is possible to be forced out of her sensory comfort zone. Her natural response to this fear is to dig her heels in by continuously pursuing sensory satisfaction. It may be challenging for the doula to help this client consider the long-term benefits of birthing choices that may feel considerably less comfortable in the present moment. At a very fundamental level, prioritizing this client’s physical comfort is likely the best way to support and empower her. If there is a concern that this client’s birthing circumstances will push her physical limits, it is very important that focused efforts be made to build up birth-environment comforts and post-birth comforts as much as possible.

Type 8: This client is a force to be reckoned with. In her most neutral mode, she can come across as confrontational and intimidating. Her greatest fear comes from the knowledge that it is possible for her power to be taken away, making her extremely sensitized to any threat of that happening. In reaction to the fear, this client asserts her power at every opportunity, challenging the doula in the most literal sense. Contrary to what might feel natural to the doula in this situation, reinforcing this client’s quest for power by helping her access and explore it will serve both client and doula well. Although this client may never completely lose her aggressive edge, the more in touch she is with her true power, the calmer she will feel and act.

Type 9: This client is generally reserved and resistant to focusing on herself. Her greatest fear comes from the knowledge that she may stand out as different and feel disconnected from everyone else. It may be challenging for the doula to keep this client directly focused on her own needs.

Normalizing the experience for this client will help her feel accepted by the doula and more open to relying on her for both physical and emotional support. Reticent to make demands, this client will be best served by a doula who is comfortable taking an ongoing proactive approach to offering all forms of support throughout the client-doula relationship. The nature-driven duration of the doula-client relationship puts pressure on the doula to achieve a level of professional intimacy with her client in a short period of time. The Enneagram personality-type system can support the doula in quickly gaining conceptual and practical insight into her client’s essential fears and needs, helping the doula to address challenges in her uniquely intuitive role.


Mom to a young adult and a preschooler, Nechama Robinson has been facilitating healthy relationship building through Enneagram personality typing since earning her graduate counseling degree in 2004. Her blog, nottheofficialenneagram. wordpress.com, provides clients an opportunity to explore aspects of the Enneagram they find most relevant. She especially enjoys helping caregiving professionals experience more satisfying communication with challenging clients and patients.