(310) 600-9912 drmoali@oasis2care.com


There are dozens of life coaches you can find every day on social media, talk shows, and podcasts. These paraprofessionals, who often have no credentials, are always ready to give us advice. They want to tell us what is getting in the way of us living our dream lives. It seems to me that the widespread availability of such quick-fix approaches has shifted how many perceive psychotherapy.

Sometimes, when I am seeing a new client in my Torrance office, after they begin to unpack decades of trauma and dysfunctional relationships, just as we are wrapping up our intake sessions, they ask me, “But really, what should I do? Should I leave him?” I don’t blame them for wanting fast answers. And after all, isn’t that what most coaching programs offer? You call a stranger, chat for half an hour, and they tell you exactly what to do? But is that really helpful? How much of a long-term change can you expect from a quick fix?

Psychotherapy and changes in the brain


During my graduate studies at Pepperdine University, I worked as a research assistant with Dr. Louis Cozolino. He is the author of numerous books on psychotherapy, including The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain. Thanks to Dr. Cozolino, I learned that psychological disorders, such as anxiety, addiction, and depression, stem from dysfunctions in their neural network. Here is a video of him talking more about this topic:


I have read hundreds of research articles on the origins of many psychopathologies. These include all kinds of people struggling with emotional challenges, ranging from mild depression to severe psychosis. At the end I learned that it all loops back to our brains. Many factors, like early childhood experiences, genetic vulnerabilities, and prolonged stress can disrupt integrated neural processing and lead to emotional pain.

The good news is our brains are plastic. This means that, given the right circumstances, your brain can change throughout your life. Many studies have shown that receiving ongoing psychotherapy gives a unique opportunity to integrate the neuronal network, leading to lasting changes.

You will need to be in therapy for the rest of your life to experience these changes. You can’t complete this process after a session or two of advice. When you work with a skilled therapist in a safe and trusting relationship, using a research-proven technique, the therapist can help you develop a new mode of processing and organizing your experiences that will shift forever how you experience certain situations.

Why is advice giving counterproductive?


I get why people want advice. After all, it would be much easier if someone would just give us the right answer. To take us out of our agony.

But there are many reasons why giving people advice could lead to harm. To start, it will not help them make lasting changes. For example, if you want to adopt a healthy lifestyle, you might start by taking a cooking class. It wouldn’t help you change your eating patterns if the instructor just provided you a complete final dish. You need to know the steps and how to cook the meal yourself. You might get some short-lived satisfaction. But you would be in the same boat at home!

My experience as a psychologist has told me that most people confront the same issues again and again. Unless they learn about their patterns in depth and how to function with these dysfunctions, they will continue to struggle. It may take on a new form, but it will be the same issue.

Additionally, therapists are human, and the advice they give is often based on their values and their life experience. Even if they did give you an advice, it might not be a right for you. It might not match your values and desires.

During my first year of graduate school, I was struggling with a relationship dilemma. I felt stuck. I just wanted someone to tell me what to do! I was continuously pursuing depth-focused psychotherapy at that time. But it didn’t seem to be helping me. This time I just wanted an answer. I searched to find a therapist who would give me a direct answer and advice. After our second session, I pressed him, and he gave me his advice. What he recommended felt wrong. It was incongruent with who I was and what I envisioned for my life. Shortly afterward, I stopped working with him. I returned to my previous therapist, who was more process oriented. She helped me to explore answers and reflect on what was right for me.

If I had followed that therapist’s advice, my life would have been drastically different. I wouldn’t have been able to make a living on my own. I would have been depressed, socially isolated, and possibly addicted to medication. For years, I had trouble understanding why he gave me that advice. It wasn’t until I got to know him socially that it made sense for me.

After I became a licensed psychologist, we worked together. I collaborated with him on different projects. During that time, I learned more about his personal life. The advice he had given me a decade before made perfect sense in the context of his life and values. However, we were so different than what would be ideal for him would not work for me at all.

My clinical experiences have taught me that people already have the capacity to make their own decisions. They can figure out what would work best for them. Psychotherapy only provides the opportunity for the neural networks that have been inhibited or minimized to be activated. In that way, people can come into contact with their own internal resources and make decisions that will benefit them.

Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and licensed therapist practicing in Los Angeles, CA. She currently has two offices, in Torrance and Hermosa Beach. Her knowledge and expertise in brain science and her clinical experience allow her to provide tailored ongoing treatment for clients struggling with eating disorders, addictions, and mood challenges.

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