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...
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 work with 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, or Crouch End that you can attend for 50 minutes a week for an agreed number of weeks.
What do you need help with?
Click on the "Conditions" tab at the top of this page to see some of my key areas of expertise. Issues like panic attacks, OCD, social anxiety, and relationship issues are explored in more detail on these pages. Click on each one to find out more about the condition and how I approach its treatment.
Below are excerpts of the most recent text to be added to this website.
I am happy to answer any questions you have so; please feel free to contact me.
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 have never had such confidence in a counsellor before, Andrew enabled me to explore and understand aspects of me that I've never managed to reach before.
I would highly recommend Andrew as I have had a number of counsellors and he has been the first one I have been able to be totally honest with and open up to. I wouldn't be where I am now without him."
Health Anxiety is not new. In Jerome K. Jerome’s Victorian comic classic, Three Men in a Boat, one episode tells how “J,” the hero, experiences extreme health anxiety. After reading a medical dictionary, he convinces himself that he is suffering from every illness in the book, except housemaid’s knee. He goes to his doctor, who examines him, tells him there is nothing wrong with him, and prescribes a diet of beef and beer, lots of exercise, and eight hours sleep a night. Since this is humorous fiction, “J” goes home reassured—and cured. In real life, however, health anxiety (also known as hypochondriasis) is no laughing matter. And nowadays we have access to far more, and far more frightening, information about all aspects of health and medical treatment than a mere medical dictionary.
Sufferers from health anxiety live in constant fear that they may have or may develop some painful, debilitating, perhaps fatal condition. They must be vigilant about their health because otherwise they might succumb to a disease that could have been prevented or cured if caught early. They are highly sensitive to any change in their bodies and liable to misinterpret normal, harmless symptoms as evidence of serious illness. For instance, a recurring headache might make you fear that you have a brain tumour; a dull pain in your abdomen could be an early sign of colon cancer. If you do some research, you are likely to come across alarming and sensationalised stories about people who neglected such warning signs. Fear and constant monitoring of physical symptoms can make them worse, and so your anxiety increases. You may go to your doctor, and your doctor, after examining you and perhaps doing various tests, may reassure you that you are healthy. But the relief that you feel at this news is only temporary, and your worries soon return. It is unfortunately characteristic of health anxiety that sufferers constantly seek reassurance from doctors, friends, or family, but are not comforted for long because they have not learned to tame their fears themselves.
Treatment of health anxiety therefore aims to help you cope with your fears and be able to reassure yourself. It may be useful to explore what it is that you fear most, whether that is being incapacitated, intractable pain, death, or the consequences to those you love. It may be necessary to challenge such magical thinking as, “If I am watchful and keep checking my body for signs of illness, I will not get sick.” The objective will always be to help you stop worrying and start living.
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.