June 24, 2004
5 Tammuz, 5764


 

Foundation promotes graphology in field of mental health

By CYNTHIA GASNER
Special to The CJN

Annette Poizner of the Milton H. Erickson Institute of Toronto

Graphology, or handwriting analysis, is being introduced as a serious assessment tool for mental health professionals in North America, says an expert on the subject.

Torontonian Annette Poizner, who recently completed her PhD in counselling psychology at OISE at the University of Toronto on the use of graphology in psychotherapy, says graphology is underused in clinical practice.

While Poizner was training in Israel a decade ago, graphology was being used more frequently there than any other personality test, including by moshavim when admitting new residents, by companies looking for new employees and by Israeli clinical psychologists.

“When used alongside other projective assessment measures, graphology can reveal the underlying and often obscured personal issues that drive a range of mental health problems, including tenacious conditions that involve obsessive compulsive symptoms – conditions that are often only minimally responsive to traditional psychotherapy,” says Poizner, who is also a graduate of the Columbia University School of Social Work.

“Projective assessment” includes the analysis of handwriting and drawings, as well as the interpretation of early memories. When symptoms have been resistant to treatment, projective assessment tends to show that, though the symptoms may be problematic, they are not the root problem, Poizner says.

“Most symptoms are seemingly imposed by the unconscious mind to manage another problem that has evaded conscious awareness. The root problem needs to be identified and managed.”

She says when this occurs, symptoms will often improve quickly and dramatically.

Poizner is a director of the Milton H. Erickson Institute of Toronto, which trains therapists in the use of hypnosis and other applications of Ericksonian psychotherapy. The Milton E. Erickson Foundation is an international consortium that promotes the use of techniques developed by the famous psychiatrist, who did not believe in drawn-out therapy.

“Erickson was skeptical about Freudian-type psychology,” says Poizner, who founded the institute with Jennifer Walsh. “He was working with the unconscious mind rather than excavating.”

She says, “When psychotherapy has not helped a client after a year and the client is still struggling with an obsession, the therapist really needs to look under the hood, so to speak.”

Projective testing brings out problems nobody knew about before, she says.

“You have to change the focus of therapy. These tests help us redirect therapy when therapy is stuck. They also let us monitor progress.”

In her dissertation, Poizner wrote that several clients and therapists were surprised by the accuracy of handwriting analysis.

“There is an excitement and trend in psychotherapy to get results quickly by using strategic short-term approaches. The people who come for Brief Therapy [a counselling method influenced by Erickson’s work] are usually people who have tried conventional therapy without success.

“I am trying to bring graphology and projective testing to the attention of colleagues, so they can see how it expedites Brief Therapy.”

Poizner founded and currently chairs the Jewish Health Alliance, a grassroots network for health-care practitioners with an interest in the relationship between Jewish thought and healing.

Poizner will be speaking at Israel’s: The Judaica Centre, 870A Eglinton Ave. W. on Thursday, July 8 at 8 p.m. about “Handwriting and Personality.” The cost is $10.