There are both advantages and disadvantages to obtaining free marriage counseling. For many people, the cost of marriage counseling can be prohibitive, and without the option of free marriage counseling, they may not be able to get the help that they and their spouse need. On the other hand, it is also important to ensure the quality of marriage counseling, which may be lacking if it is offered for free. Inadequate counseling offered by unlicensed or unqualified therapists may, in some cases, do more harm than good.
Many people lack the funds to pay for couples therapy, and their insurance policies may not cover its costs. Some community counseling centers, student counseling centers, and religious organizations offer free marriage counseling to individuals who need it. Religious organizations, in particular, may offer free pre-marriage counseling programs, or their clergy may offer informal counseling to couples who are having a rough time. Depending on the quality of the services offered by these organizations and the credentials of their counselors, couples may benefit greatly from these services. Couples who are unable to afford counseling services but who wish to take advantage of free marriage counseling should, however, investigate the credentials of the individual or individuals who will be providing therapy, as this due diligence can prevent falling victim to poorly prepared, non-licensed practitioners.
Some of the disadvantages of free marriage counseling include the issues of quality and consistency. In some cases, counseling clinics that offer free services may be training programs for graduate students in counseling or psychology. While these students usually practice under the supervision of experienced mentors, the quality of counseling offered may not be that which is offered through established, licensed professionals. In addition, free counseling programs may also be staffed by volunteers who may not be consistently available for ongoing counseling sessions. This means that couples who need more than a few sessions may lose their counselor and have to adjust to a new one while in therapy.
Another significant problem with any type of free service is that users may not value what they receive unless they pay for it. As a result, one or both spouses may not invest themselves as fully in free marriage counseling as they would in counseling that they paid for. This is why many counseling services, even those that are supported by grants and public funds, have a sliding scale that typically requires clients to pay something toward their services, even if it is just a token amount.