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August 11, 2005 — Av 6, 5765

Graphology: it’s Kabbalistic, not voodoo

Graphologist Annette Poizner uses handwriting as one of her assessment tools in her private practice.

By Shlomit Kriger
Tribune Correspondent

Good thing this article is typewritten. Otherwise, you may be able to tell that while I’m bright and dynamic I have too much male expansiveness in my personality, which makes me highly energetic and determined. I just want to charge into the world. Yet with such a turbo-charged system I may not know when to put on the brakes and truly unwind.

As a result, and because of past memories I’ve held on to, my unconscious mind thinks I can’t trust myself and that if it doesn’t make me inhibited I could walk around with a lampshade on my head. But I’ve grown and things have changed. Still, whatever the unconscious mind believes really puts sway on a person.

With these two sides of me always in conflict, my spirit will never be truly happy and free. I must learn to find a balance between the two so I can just flourish and become my intended self.

Certified graphologist and registered social worker Annette Poizner was able to uncover that and more when she recently conducted a projective assessment test on me using various samples of my handwriting.

Sitting across from me in her North York office, speaking in animated fashion with sensationalized facial expressions and the frequent use of her hands, this 5-foot,11-inch tall woman dressed in orderly fashion accurately deciphered the essence of my personality.

Poizner runs a private practice using projective assessment within brief psychotherapy. Apart from graphology, she also uses ideas from Jewish mysticism and Chinese medicine and conducts Ericksonian hypnosis and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. She specializes in treating those with obsessive tendencies and difficulties with compulsive behaviour patterns and asserts she has a very high success rate.

Poizner first became intrigued by graphology when she visited Israel in the late ’80s and reviewed some materials, and later studied the method, with Dr. Baruch Lazewnik.

While there, she came across an article written by five psychological researchers indicating that graphology was being used in Israel more frequently than any other personality test. Even today, there are rabbis using it for premarital counselling, employers using it in hiring and clinicians using it in counselling.

Just three days after her return to Toronto, Poizner sat with a faculty advisor at York University and spilled her discoveries. Having rolled his eyes a bit, the advisor said what many skeptics believe to this day: “Graphology has virtually no place in the field of psychology.”

However, by this point, Poizner was determined to study psychology and prove these skeptics wrong.

She soon earned a psychology degree from York and then completed a Doctorate of Education specializing in counselling psychology from the University of Toronto.

While working on her doctoral dissertation in 2003, she explored the use of graphology as a psychotherapeutic tool using a pilot study involving several therapists and their clients. The therapists found the graphology assessment very useful in determining proper treatment for the clients.

Meanwhile, Poizner also found that most of the material on graphology in North America was written by Jews, mainly those who brought it with them from Germany during WWII. She couldn’t pinpoint why Jews were on the front lines of the graphology movement.

That is, until she began studying Jewish mysticism and stumbled upon the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

“When I learned about the tree and its implications for personality, bells went off,” she said, “because I recognized that the very graphology principles that I am using to understand people are the same principles embedded in that map.”

The tree serves as a map of attributes that allow humans to understand themselves. In order to grasp their sense of identity, they must obtain harmony amongst the attributes, which will enable them to have a stable experience both emotionally and intellectually.

Inevitably, though, certain attributes are turbo-charged. They are gifts that need to be tamed lest they turn into vices or compulsions. When this occurs, other attributes are under-energized, leading people to not inhabit those areas of their lives properly. These imbalances trigger both physical and psychological symptoms.

Poizner provides lectures explaining the relationship between graphology and Jewish mysticism through lectures at The Learning Annex and various community organizations. She will be giving these lectures at the Learning Annex later this month (Aug 18).

“This isn’t just some ethnic seasoning to psychotherapy,” said Poizner. “[The use of Jewish insight] actually strongly directs [the therapy process] in a particular way toward a productive outcome.”

Five years ago, Poizner established the Jewish Health Alliance to explore the intersection between Jewish thought and the healing arts. She also serves as co-director of the Milton H. Erickson Institute of Toronto, named after a psychiatrist who developed brief psychotherapeutic methods to help people quickly.

Poizner has composed articles describing her work for various publications and is currently producing an interpretive manual on graphology. She is also preparing a five-week series of seminars on the psychology of handwriting.

She maintains that the use of graphology within therapy can provide quicker and more effective results.

Pointing to a study indicating that clients come to see traditional therapists an average of six times, she explained that instead of having to spend several hours simply digesting background information on a client, therapists using graphology can begin targeting the core issue from the onset.

“To do brief therapy, you have to hit the ground running,” she said. “If people see that you understand them, they’ll come back.”

But graphology is always used alongside other assessment measures, because, as with any other projective tests, clinicians can be more assured that the findings are meaningful and relevant if the same theme emerges in each. That is why Poizner made me hand in a drawing of a tree, a written story about my day and 10 earliest childhood memories, three copies of my signature, and my birth date.

One of Poizner’s clients was a Grade 12 student who had become convinced that she had terminal cancer. She didn’t feel as resilient as others her age, was very inhibited, and felt unprepared to take the next steps of her life such as going to college or choosing a career path. The girl also practised obsessive routines before bedtime.

Before being referred to Poizner, she had been seeing a psychotherapist for a year and a half, but continued spiraling down. By this time, the therapist was keen on administering medication.

Poizner conducted a projective assessment on the girl and ascertained that psychologically she was seven years old and that her unconscious mind was telling her something was wrong with her because she felt weak. This belief led to her daily preoccupations, which served as methods of avoidance from the difficult tasks she felt unable to perform.

Within 10 psychotherapy sessions involving the assessment, hypnosis, and a few other therapeutic tactics, the girl’s fears had disappeared and she had set her sights on a career in teaching.

“When people understand what the root of their issues are, that clarifies things for them,” said Poizner. “The methods I use provide an understanding of the dynamics of personality and help people feel better and find some direction in life.”

For more information or to contact her, visit