Enneagram Prison Project

Dr. Hilary Stokes and Dr. Kim Ward (together known as the Authenticity Associates) are Certified Enneagram Coaches and Guides. They have a coaching and counseling practice in San Diego, CA specializing in mind-body psychology. They met while working in an organization dedicated to raising global consciousness. Based on their own personal and professional work they have found an ideal healing approach integrates holistic psychology, neuroscience, wisdom traditions and traditional psychology. The Enneagram has been an invaluable resource on this journey of personal and professional development. They discovered the Enneagram in the late 90’s and they find it so dynamic and universal that they use it daily.

Upon introduction to the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP) they felt an instant connection to the team, mission and vision. The EPP is a non profit organization using the power of the Enneagram as a tool for self awareness, self regulation and self compassion. The EPP program is currently being offered to men and women in correctional facilities, high school students and beyond.

What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a personality system dating back centuries with roots in ancient wisdom traditions. It has been developed and refined through modern psychology over the past 50 years. It is currently being taught around the world in ivy league business schools, psychology programs, personal development seminars, major corporations and more. It is commonly said that The Enneagram is exceptionally accurate and loved for its focus on strengths and what is right with us, more so than what is wrong with us.

According to Enneagram theory, personality type is based on how we survived our early development. Both nature and nurture play a role in personality development. Each type has foundational qualities that are inherently good and pure in nature. These are known as the true essence and divine spark within us all. The environment we grew up in, degree of secure attachment and level of trauma we experienced during our early years play a large role in the coping strategies of our personality type. To this end, our personality stems from the strategies we used to meet our basic needs for love, safety and belonging. When we do not have a secure attachment we disconnect from our true essence in favor of survival. We develop relatively predictable habits of thinking, feeling and acting that can be healthy, average or unhealthy depending on the degree of safe and secure holding and attachment from our environment and those around us.

The Enneagram outlines predictable strategies for coping, motivations, world views, strengths, challenges, avoidance patterns, fears, desires and solutions to find our way back to our true, divine nature. Once these predictable coping mechanisms are brought to light, it can have infinite benefits as it reveals the patterns of our behavior that are limiting and even self sabotaging to ourselves and those around us.

Here are the nine different Enneagram types:

By knowing our Enneagram type, we can identify typical challenges, blind spots and growth areas. This awareness is an invaluable resource in preventing patterns of self sabotage and making desired changes. This knowledge can help us in all aspects of our life: work relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, friendships and personal growth. It can benefit our interpersonal skills through effective communication and conflict resolution, help regulate our emotions, bring compassionate acceptance of ourselves and others and increase mindfulness.

Enneagram type can be determined by taking an Enneagram personality test and/or working with an Enneagram coach. Although we share qualities of each of the nine types, one type is considered to be our home base throughout our life.

The Enneagram Prison Project

The Enneagram Prison Project (EPP) is a non-profit organization that serves people who are incarcerated in the United States and internationally. The founder of EPP, Susan Olesek is an extraordinary visionary. She believed the Enneagram could inspire transformation through self awareness, self regulation and compassion for people on both sides of the bars. Her vision ultimately asserts that we all deserve freedom from the prisons of our own making.

The Enneagram Prison Project Method

EPP offers in-depth programs for beginners and advanced students. The program consists of group-facilitated classes stressing the benefit of groups for connection, collaboration and community. ‘We do the work together’ is the EPP motto.

The Impact of the Project

The United States has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, with no country even rivaling our figures. The amount of money the US spends on prisons (inmates, correction centers, etc.) is in the tens of billions of dollars and growing every year. Unfortunately recidivism rates are also unparalleled and rehabilitative programs are not generally prioritized.

At the time of this writing, the organization has taught over 206 courses with over 3500 graduated students, equating to roughly over 5600 hours of Enneagram classes taught in several prisons and jails in the state of California. It is a widely accepted program by individuals who are incarcerated. Enrollment is high and there is often a waiting list to attend. The EPP is growing and expanding as the Enneagram method is giving individuals who are incarcerated freedom from their internal prisons. In addition to an increasing demand for the program in the USA, the EPP has also established a Global Affiliation Program to take this project to an international level. Currently, EPP has programs in California, Minnesota, and Belgium. Developing project locations include Southern California, Colorado, France, United Kingdom, and Australia. A vital part of the EPP is the Ambassador Program where previously incarcerated individuals become EPP advocates. They train to be EPP guides and teachers of future EPP curriculum. They are extremely valuable to the project and an inspiration to current EPP students.

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Transformative and Life Changing

The Enneagram is a transformative, life-changing and invaluable self-awareness tool that helps us understand the underlying drives and motivations in virtually everything we do. We can all benefit from the psychological system of the Enneagram. The EPP is freeing people “from the prisons of our own making”.

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