Love of the written word and a desire to understand and help others are the forces that have driven Joan Belzer throughout her life, and, over time, she has found a way to combine them. After discovering the power of graphology, also known as handwriting analysis, Belzer was empowered to study to become a graphologist as a way of helping others. “I love meeting new people and introducing them to what their handwriting reveals. It’s a way to help people start helping themselves,” says Belzer.
With an undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in library sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles, Belzer originally discovered graphology in an attempt to lose weight. Although her husband, Irvin, told her he thought it would be a waste of money for her to go to a seminar that advertised handwriting analysis as a key to losing weight, Belzer felt compelled to go. Little did she know that the seminar would change her life, as well as her waistline.
“In one session, he was able to tell me what my problems were,” says Belzer of her initial experience with a handwriting analyst. “He also showed me that by writing in a positive way, I could get rid of the problems and get rid of the weight. He did more for me in one session, than if I had sat for five years with a therapist, and I thought if I could learn how to do this and help others, that’s what I wanted to do.” After losing 15 pounds, which she has kept off for over 30 years, Belzer pursued training in graphology, joined several professional organizations such as the American Association of Handwriting Analysts and the American Handwriting Analysts Foundation, and began to teach herself how to use this tool to help others.
Belzer worked at Canyon Ranch as a handwriting analyst for resort attendees for 25 years. In her time at the resort, she was able to help many guests deal with issues that they had. “This is one of my passions in life, helping people to help themselves by changing their handwriting,” she says. While she no longer works at Canyon Ranch, she continues to see clients in a one-on-one setting and she also speaks to groups. In 2013, Belzer published “The Five Minute Therapist,” which is a collection of graphology exercises that readers can do on their own to improve their lives. Belzer also developed the “Magic Margin Ruler,” which she uses to identify at what age clients may have experienced issues that are holding them back in life. “I can put it on a piece of typing paper and tell people when their problems started. By doing this, I tell people to start writing in the margins. That way they get rid of all their emotional baggage they’ve been carrying with them, and they start with a clean emotional slate.”
Handwriting is deeply tied to the subconscious, says Belzer. “In order to write, your brain has to give your hand a message. So, when you write in a positive way, the cortex, or the subconscious, accepts the positive message. Nothing changes consciously, until your subconscious changes. That’s why a lot of people have trouble. It’s like a band-aid when people talk about what’s happening, but not their perception of what is happening,” she explains.
Cursive handwriting is no longer being taught to all children in the United States, and Belzer believes this omission is affecting children in negative ways. “When you print, you use one side of the brain, the rational side. That’s why you have to learn cursive, because it engages both the right side and the left side,” says Belzer. She worries that not learning cursive will have long-term consequences. “When you write in cursive, [that indicates] you want to have emotional connection with people. Young people today find it very hard to make emotional connections,” she says, adding, “Right now, they don’t teach margins, so they have no boundaries. The kids are all over the place.”
In addition to the issues that children may be facing subconsciously by not learning cursive, Belzer also thinks that the loss of cursive fluency will lead to the end of handwriting analysis as a tool for self-help in the United States. Some other countries, however, use graphology much more frequently. “It’s very well accepted in Israel and Europe. To get hired at the top companies, you have to submit a handwriting sample. You can’t tell the occupation of a person by the handwriting, but you can tell the abilities and qualities,” says Belzer.
Belzer is also drawn to the printed word. “I’m an avid reader, and I get joy in recommending books. We belong to Anshei Israel, and once a year I lead a book discussion group,” says Belzer. Her friends often ask her for book recommendations, and she eagerly obliges. In her spare time, she also enjoys cooking and spending time with her two daughters, Suzanne and Lisa, and her grandchildren.
Laura Wilson Etter is a freelance journalist, grant writer and artist in Tucson.