Be Heard, Gain Insight, and Change
Experienced psychotherapist in Crouch End, Muswell Hill & North London
An accredited counsellor and psychotherapist based in Muswell Hill and Crouch End
We all have difficulties and need some extra help at times.
We can work together to:
... gain understanding and insight
... achieve a sense of relief
... make the changes you need
My name is Andrew Martin and I have been a practising counsellor in North London for the past 12 years. I am committed to providing counselling in a safe, confidential and non-judgmental environment.
My approach to counselling
For some people, it is important to understand the past, while others prefer to work in a more solution-focused way. I take an integrative approach to counselling and psychotherapy, which allows a really flexible treatment based on your individual needs. Click here to learn more about my qualifications and experience.
Areas of experience
As a counsellor in North London I work a lot with relationship issues, and the feelings of betrayal, low self-esteem and stress associated with separation and divorce. A counsellor can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings and discover how to move forward with your relationship.
Anxiety is also linked to assertiveness issues like the experience of being 'used' or 'walked over' by the people in your life. This often leads to low self-esteem, depression, guilt and shame.
Contact me to talk about...
- Relationship issues
- Panic Attacks
- Social Anxiety
What to expect
You might talk about your background, your relationships, or what you hope to achieve through counselling and psychotherapy. It's also a good time to ask me questions about the counselling process, and I’ll answer them as clearly as I can.
By the end of the session you’ll probably know if you feel safe with me, and want to come back and see me again.
From my perspective I want to use the first session to get to know you, to explain things like confidentiality, what I offer, and what it might feel like to see me.
I’ll also start to formulate your concerns using one or more psychological models. At the end of the session, I’ll tell you my thoughts and recommend our next steps.
If we both feel that there is a good ‘match’ then I will suggest a time-limited course of counselling. I find it useful to begin in this structured way since it provides a good opportunity to step back and evaluate progress.
We would also need to agree on a location for counselling in Muswell Hill, Crouch End or East Finchley that you can attend for 50 minutes a week for an agreed number of weeks.
New Article: Assertiveness in Relationships
I want to give a general overview of how anxiety can be at the core of relationship difficulties. “John” is not an actual client but rather a typical example that best illustrates what many of my relationship clients say to me, and the work we typically do together to help resolve their relationship problems.
John is a 36-year-old man who has been married to Sarah for the past 3 years. He comes to me seeking psychotherapy to help with depression and relationship issues. He says that he is no longer getting on with Sarah, they bicker all the time, and can’t seem to have a conversation without it turning into an argument.
In fact John discloses that he feels quite intimidated or even scared by Sarah. He is worried that if he says what he actually thinks to her she will lose her temper with him, and so he says nothing as that feels easier.
Over time John has become resentful and feels like the only option he has left is to leave the relationship. However, when he seriously thinks of leaving Sarah, he is aware that this is really not what he wants at all. He fears he will lose access to their young children and also that he will be lonely. Moreover, he’s sure he still loves her. What he really wants is to be able to have the relationship that they used to have, where he felt that they were a team and he was not scared of her irrational angry responses to what he says.
How to understand what is happening for John:
Although John has come to me with depression and relationship issues, that is not what I see as the main cause of the depression and breakdown in his relationship with Sarah.
The depression is there because John cannot imagine a way through the relationship problems and feels trapped and hopeless. He sees his options as being either to stay as things are with a wife he walks on eggshells around and cannot be honest with, or to leave her, giving up his chance at a family life. Both options seem terrible to John. In my opinion, this sense of being trapped, unable to find a way out, is what is causing the depression.
Anxiety in relationships:
As we work together, John starts to see that he has got into the habit of not being honest with Sarah about his real thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t matter if it’s about what they are going to have for dinner that night or what school to send their child to. Big or small, John often no longer tells Sarah his truth. John has got into the habit of being sensitive to what Sarah wants and then just going along with it. He is worried about what he sees as her irrational and angry reaction to anything he says that she doesn’t agree with.
What started out as a simple case of not telling her his truth so he did not have to deal with her anger has now become an ingrained set of roles in the relationship that both parties have fallen into without even noticing it.
John is doing what we all do when we are suffering from almost any kind of anxiety disorder. He is avoiding short-term pain (the chance of confrontation if he is honest with Sarah), but the outcome of this avoidance is that he experiences long-term, chronic pain instead ( feeling depressed, bitter, resentful, blaming Sarah for the problem, feeling trapped). This may also affect his self-esteem and confidence in other areas of life.
For John it is essential to understand that his partner cannot know what he isn’t telling her. His silence guarantees his ongoing misery and hopelessness. However, it is not as simple as saying to a client like John “Off you go, and tell your partner what you actually think”. This doesn’t work for two reasons...
Find out More...
I am shy but it was easy to open up to Andrew, he put me at ease and made me feel comfortable. He listened attentively and was very down-to-earth, wise and sensitive.
Andrew made me feel like I was one of his only patients, and he wanted to bring me back to optimum mental health as soon as possible.
After 8 weekly sessions, together we found the underlying root causes of my problems and he guided me in how to deal with them. I found it really helpful when he participated in the exercises with me.
Now, I can honestly say that I am confident that I have the tools to deal with my anxiety and panic, thanks to Andrew."
Stephan's case study: Mindfulness for Anxiety
I first approached Andrew for therapy after having experienced panicky feelings of unreality in increasing frequency over the last few years. In May this year, I began having these panic experiences every day. My heart would race, I would become disoriented, I would not be able to understand or pay attention to others. Worst of all, I could not understand what was happening to me.
In the past, I have always had nervousness about health, which culminated in me going to the doctor and sexual health clinic more often than average. I had also had a bad trip whilst eating edible marijuana in Holland a few years ago. It was at this time that I experienced ‘unreality’ for the first time.
For the next few weeks, my mind became obsessed with thoughts that I was going crazy or losing my grip on reality. I approached Andrew with a vague idea that I might be experiencing anxiety; however, I knew almost nothing about it.
Andrew identified my experience as anxiety caused by the feelings of unreality and began treatment based on mindfulness and acceptance.
Treatment was not without its challenges, as I was very easily overwhelmed towards the start of the process. A big stage in my treatment was realising the difference between resignation and acceptance. I have defined it for myself in this way: resignation is ‘giving up’ and resigning yourself to experience pain — nobody wants to live like that. Acceptance, on the other hand, is to acknowledge that certain eventualities could happen, and if they do, you will be ready with the tools available.
In matters of the mind, it would seem that if you are not prepared or dread to feel anxious and to think negative thoughts, you will think more of them. This is a difficult paradox and one that involved me facing my fear of unreality. I believe this process is what many people describe as a journey.
With Andrew’s help, I was able to accept the unreality and allow it to pass me by. This radically reduced the fear I had of it, and I quickly ceased to feel anxious in this regard.
This was not the end of my journey. In many ways, I feel as if my real journey was just beginning. I had begun to have many anxious thoughts about many different topics that seemed to change quickly, and it hurt very much to engage in them. I believe that I progressed into General Anxiety Disorder.
How to rob anxiety of its power:
For this, Andrew and I talked about Mindfulness. In my own definition, this is the ability to think on two separate levels: to know that you are thinking something. I could think to myself ‘What if I do not sleep this evening?’ and I would cause myself great pain trying to avoid this thought, whilst I attempted to live in the gaps between thoughts when my mind was calm.
It took me a long time to realise that the object of anxiety treatment is not to never have the thought again. It is to feel fully prepared so that when you have the thought, you will be able to deal with it, and it will not hurt you. For negative thoughts, the ability to allow a thought to live with you whilst not engaging with it is an excellent way to rob it of its power. For emotions, again, mindfulness that they will come and go (and that you do not need to interact with or suppress them in any way) is the best course of action. In both cases, mindfulness allowed me the tool necessary to feel prepared in advance of the thought or feeling.
What I learned:
I have had a number of revelations over the course of the journey. I firmly believe that knowledge dispels fear, and that as I became more aware of why I was experiencing what I was experiencing, my journey became much easier. The most insightful thing I realised was that I was scared of anxiety, and this fear is what made that anxiety worse.
This may have seemed obvious, and it probably was, but I never connected it with the reason my mind would throw up hundreds of different scenarios for me to attempt to deal with. For a long time, I had no idea why this was happening. I believe my mind had become so wary about the feeling of anxiety, it was simulating different situations ‘just in case’ they happened. This piece of insight was illuminating; it allowed me to fully understand what was happening, and further reduced my negative thoughts.
My journey is ongoing and gets slightly easier every day. With the awareness and understanding I now have, I have very little fear of negative or catastrophic thoughts or even the feeling of anxiety itself. I hope one day to reflect on this experience as untimely ultimately beneficial to my life, equipping me as it has with a number of tools to manage thoughts and emotions, and opening the door for me to think differently about the pursuit of happiness and success in my life.
He helped me face up to truths not only about my marriage but mainly about myself - even when I didn’t want to accept them. Without a doubt, this made me a better person, wife and mother."
Learn about Shame, Embarrassment, and Guilt
Feelings of shame, embarrassment, or guilt can be some of the most unpleasant symptoms of anxiety. What they share is the sense that you are being judged and found wanting; the difference lies in who seems to be judging you. Shame and embarrassment are public, whereas guilt is private. When you feel ashamed or embarrassed, you think that other people disapprove of you. You have behaved in public in a way that shows you to be flawed or weak, and you believe that those around you share your negative opinion of yourself. Wishing that the earth would swallow you up, you may resolve to avoid public scrutiny in future, which only intensifies your anxiety.
For example, you may be having a fun time dancing round your living room listening to an uncool pop song from your youth, perhaps Steps singing “5,6,7,8,” a song that, although it makes you smile, has little musical credibility according to your social group -- and so you feel is best kept a secret. You are feeling happiness and joy as you sing into your hairbrush or play air guitar or whatever you are doing. So far, no problem. However, if you are unexpectedly disturbed by a flatmate or friend, you are likely to be drenched in a cold bucket of shame or embarrassment. It is the act of being seen doing something that you think others will judge you for that explains your feeling of shame. It is about breaking societal norms and rules.
Embarrassment & Shame
Embarrassment is not as painful as shame. You can perhaps joke about an embarrassing situation, but not a shameful one. Coping with feelings of shame means learning to distinguish between your behaviour and yourself. One unfortunate public lapse, or even several, does not mean that you are incompetent or foolish. You can choose to disagree with what you imagine other people are thinking about you. They may not be judging you harshly — or at all. Even if they do, what matters is not their disapproval but the importance you yourself attach to it, thus increasing your anxiety.
In the above example, relief could be found in acceptance that you like a catchy pop song, despite it not being very cool to do so. When you accept the truth about your own preferences, the shame is likely to be reduced to embarrassment, or even not experienced at all. However, guilt does not lend itself to the same easy reframing.
Guilt: breaking your own rules
Guilt arises from breaching your own moral code, either by actions or thoughts that harm yourself, or by those that harm others. When you feel guilty, you disapprove of yourself. You may have failed to do something you should have done, or you may have done something you should not have done. In the example of listening to an uncool pop song, you are breaking a perceived societal rule — but not your own moral rules.
While shame may prompt you to hide or run away, guilt may prompt you, positively, to make amends, or negatively, either to punish yourself or to encourage others to punish you. In coping with guilt, it is helpful to consider just how much you are responsible for what you feel guilty about. This does not mean denying your responsibility, but rather trying to look objectively at the whole situation and any other factors involved. As with shame, it is important to distinguish between your behaviour and yourself. If you label yourself as “bad” or “wicked” because you have offended against your own moral code, that may only lead to more “bad” behaviour, to justify that label. A better way forward is to seek to understand why you acted as you did and to learn from your mistakes, in a non-judgmental therapeutic setting.