A graphologist is someone who studies handwriting, and usually applies his or her studies to analyzing specific documents. In some cases, a graphologist is also a psychologist, because it is believed that handwriting provides insights into someone's personality, mental state, and nervous system health. There are a number of potential careers for a graphologist, ranging from assisting forensic document examiners to helping companies with their recruitment procedures, and training varies from brief internships to years of professional schooling. The art of graphology has been practiced for thousands of years; some of the Ancient Greeks, for example, boasted that they could learn a great deal about each other through examining their handwriting.
Handwriting can be used to look at several aspects of personality. When employed to look at questionable documents, a graphologist will look at how the individual writes in multiple samples, identifying distinctive traits which may reveal whether or not a document is fake. In a way, handwriting is like a thumb print; it is very difficult to fake, and no two writers are the same. Medical doctors may also use it to look at the general state of a patient's health. Because the hands are controlled by the central nervous system, changes in writing style may reveal nervous system problems such as temporary incapacity through alcohol intoxication, or the early stages of Parkinson's disease and other serious nervous system illnesses.
However, a graphologist usually looks at handwriting to glean information about the author's personality. Graphologists believe that writing can reveal distinct subconscious personality traits, because the ego is often suppressed while people write. Also, certain traits tend to be accompanied by certain handwriting quirks, and a good graphologist can identify potential psychological problems, or just get a window into the way someone's unconscious brain works. By analyzing handwriting, it is believed that a graphologist can predict compatibility with other people or a job, identify areas of tension in someone's life, and see what kind of emotions the person was experiencing while he or she wrote.
In most areas of the world, there is no formal legal definition for a graphologist. Most graphologists learn by studying with others, although some choose to pursue graphology after they have already graduated from medical school, commonly as a psychologist. Many forensic education programs offer graphology classes as well, and it can take years to become a skilled and accurate graphologist. People who are interested in graphology should probably start by studying extensive psychology, so that they will have a firm basis to work from when looking at handwriting.