Excaliber - York University
Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Handwriting analysis may be coming into its North American own
Written by Dave Golokhov - Staff Writer

I may be young, but I am wise beyond my years. I'm still growing, but my hair and patience are not. I'm a people person, but I cannot be bothered with individuals who are late, lifeless or lazy. I hate snail mail, I like e-mail and I have a strong attention to detail. I'm conscious of everything around me as well as self-conscious. My confidence fluctuates and my interests oscillate. I like to say "yes", but I say "no" more often. I shy away from commitment and my independence is vital. I'm funny and athletic and, occasionally, poetic. I'm a happy pessimist and a cautious optimist. I'm semi-private, semi-professional and semi-sensitive. One thing is for sure, I'm fully sarcastic. Can you tell?

Well, now you know me. But without reading the first paragraph of this column, how could you be acquainted with most of my attributes? Sure we could talk, text message, or tailor a tryst, but there are ways to learn about a person without interaction.

Don't be perplexed, you know exactly what I mean. Perspicacity is ever present on campus, where everyone is a judge. We claim to know a person before we've even locked eyes. First, hairstyle, clothing and other miscellaneous aesthetics are factored.

Then entourages, choice of hangout, literary selection or restaurant preference are added into the equation. At this point in time, we've already calculated the probability of a relationship

Though our nature is to judge a book by its cover, why don't we bother to analyze the writing inside?

Graphology, or handwriting analysis, is a serious tool of assessment that can be used to learn about the characteristics of a person.

Similar to how we derive traits from a person's behaviours, graphologists examine the shapes, traces and contents of a writer's sample to derive characteristics of attitude, sentiment, emotional temperament and social style. Drawings and written early memories are also evaluated.

While graphology is applied by some in the day-to-day world, such as employers assessing potential employees and landlords assessing potential tenants, its main uses are in the realm of counselling psychology. Handwriting analysis has been used clinically in Europe for decades, yet it can't seem to find its feet in North America.

Local certified graphologist and psychotherapist Annette Poizner, who did her PhD in counseling psychology at the University of Toronto, suggests that graphology should not be used on its own. She wrote her dissertation on the use of graphology within psychotherapy.

"When used alongside other projective assessment measures," says Poizner, "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. [These are] conditions that are often only minimally responsive to traditional psychotherapy.

It makes sense. There is no one-size-fits-all test for analyzing a person, but if graphology is used in combination with other examinations, a more accurate judgment can be concluded. But what makes our handwriting specimen so reliable?

"People express their patterns in virtually every movement they make and even in every word they speak," says Poizner. "In handwriting, the writer's idiosyncratic pattern is captured in the movement of the writing and is etched onto the page so we can analyze it well after the client has left the room ... whereas it is harder to analyze body language since it does not leave a trace."

We are all unique individuals and our own inscription should be distinctive but the sample can be manipulated.

"Handwriting is affected by the use of drugs or alcohol, by medical problems that affect eye-hand coordination or vision ... so clinical graphologists are careful. We always use it alongside other assessment measures and make sure that findings from a graphological evaluation make sense next to findings that emerge when we administer other tests."

When I visited Poizner for my personal session, I was curious to know the specifics that would clue her into my writing, or any other person's penmanship for that matter.

"We look at spacing of words and letters to get a sense of the writer's organizational skills. Is the spacing jumbled and chaotic? Is it neat and orderly? We look at the degree of regularity in the writing to get a sense of the writer's emotional equilibrium.

Moodiness is seen by disturbances in the rhythm of the writing, difficulty keeping the baseline of the writing straight and variability in letter sizes, writing slant and placement of words and letters," informs Poizner.

In the real world, we consistently premeditate our actions and appearance to represent ourselves in a different light; how many people have ever considered the above characteristics of their handwriting? Our print is an instinctual process and that is one of the reasons that makes graphology much more fruitful for purposes of psychotherapy.

"When the diagnosis is correct, the healing begins."
Carl Jung, M.D.
"I think that true psychotherapy is knowing that each patient is an individual, unique and different."
Milton H. Erickson, M.D.
"The cure is to let the individuality come out and flower in all its particular genius."
Ernest Rossi,
Ph. D.
"Being under sentence of termination doth most marvelously concentrate the material."
David Malan after Samual Johnson