The Pros And Cons Of Free Family Counseling

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant
Updated November 13, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Family therapy is usually pursued when a traumatic event or circumstance negatively affects a family. Despite its many potential benefits, family therapy is not always covered by medical insurance or may not fall within every family's financial means, meaning that free family counseling is sometimes the only option. You may find free family counseling through various religious groups and community organizations. Potential benefits may include a stronger family unit and a deeper understanding of each other, while possible drawbacks may involve challenges if not all family members are willing to participate and frustrations at differing advice offered by the counselor. If you’d like to speak with a therapist one-on-one or as a couple about family issues, an online therapy platform can be a great place to get started.

Where To Find Free Family Counseling

Many religious groups and community organizations offer free family counseling as a public service. However, unless they can count on the services of a licensed family and marriage counselor, the quality of counseling they provide can vary widely.

Family therapy is a specialized sub-field in psychology that generally requires a particular skill set. While compassion may form part of it, good intentions can’t usually substitute for theoretical knowledge and practical experience. It could be possible that therapy offered by someone without an advanced degree, thousands of hours spent practicing, and a commitment to a professional code of ethics could harm rather than help a family.

Looking For Help With Family Life - Or Something Else?

When Family Counseling May Be Appropriate

A person's family often consists of the people who know them best and are most interested in supporting them through tough times. When confronted with substance use disorder, depression, or other mental health challenges, family members’ help tends to make all the difference. These issues can also affect the happiness of the family as a whole, meaning that the base problem and its effect on others may benefit from being addressed. Working with the entire family can allow a therapist to teach them effective coping and communication skills. 

In other cases, coping with the aftermath of a divorce, losing a loved one, or another calamity is often best done in a family context. Most households contain individuals with widely differing amounts of life experience, and family therapists are usually skilled at helping to bridge resulting communication gaps.

This type of facilitated communication is sometimes used to address behavioral problems in children. While other supplemental therapy may also be a good idea, a family counselor may be able to see a child's actions not only as something in themselves, but also as the possible result of unhealthy dynamics in their home life.

Potential Pros And Cons Of Free Family Therapy

Understanding everything that may come along with family counseling can be important for both you and your loved ones. Like any form of treatment, there tend to be potential benefits and drawbacks that all parties should know about before they dive in. 

Pro: May Strengthen The Family Unit

One of the greatest benefits of family counseling can come in the form of having a stronger family unit. This often occurs with time and consistency. When the entire family can sit down with a counselor, this can provide insight into what's going on, how various relatives are feeling, and the existence of present dynamics. The family unit can ultimately get stronger through counseling by talking with the specialist, remaining receptive to subsequent feedback, and following any advice given.

Con: Can Be Harder Without All Family Members

Family counseling can be a very life-changing and effective process; however, it generally requires all family members to attend as active and willing participants to yield the best results. This doesn't necessarily mean that family counseling can't happen without all family members, but it might be slightly less effective or more challenging.

Without all members of the family present, the counselor may not be able to get each person’s perspective. However, they can work with the relatives that are present, learn as much as possible about all involved members of the family (even if this requires getting testimony from others), and then provide the best possible advice. 

Pro: Can Help Families Understand More About Each Other

During family counseling, relatives are likely to learn more about one another. This often comes along with working with a professional who can provide insight into your perspectives and help others understand where each person is coming from.

Many problems and misunderstandings can arise when families aren't on the same page. This is why having a clear comprehension of one another and where everyone stands can matter so much. In many cases, it may take sitting down with a counselor and hearing what each party has to say before relatives can have that breakthrough and truly get to understand one another. This is an area where family counseling can genuinely prove to be advantageous.

Con: Potential For Differing Outlooks On Provided Feedback

Another potential drawback of family counseling is that all family members might not like the advice given. Some relatives may be advised to make specific changes, while others may be given different advice. When one family member feels as though the feedback they're being given is wholly different from others, it can create some tension. This may not always happen during family counseling sessions, but it's not particularly uncommon.

In cases like these, there can be some important things to remember. The most important thing for everyone to keep in mind is usually that counselors are not in the business of taking sides. The counselor's job is normally to hear out all sides, listen to what everyone has to say, and then guide the family on a path that can better them as a unit. This may require certain family members to make specific behavioral changes; it may require other relatives to continue doing what they're doing.

The variables that impact the feedback that the counselor provides can be innumerable. However, when all parties are open and receptive, this can put them on the path to being healthier and happier.

Looking For Help With Family Life - Or Something Else?

What To Keep In Mind Before Family Counseling

If you're trying family counseling for the first time, it can be natural to have some reservations, questions, or anxiety. However, understanding the following family counseling information may put your mind at ease as you prepare to venture down this journey.

It Normally Requires Time And Consistency

Even today, there can be many misconceptions surrounding counseling in general, especially family counseling. Before attending family counseling, it can be critical to remember that progress normally takes time and consistency. There are generally no overnight solutions; problems don't usually develop in the blink of an eye, and they can't typically be solved in the blink of an eye, either. There may be challenges and tough conversations that need to be addressed during family counseling, but sticking with it, even when it's not easy, will likely lead to success in the end.

Different Issues May Require Different Approaches

In general, no two families are the same. Each family tends to have its own dynamics, issues, and histories. For this reason, everyone should usually be aware that multiple issues tend to require different solutions and approaches. Keeping an open mind and being receptive to a counselor's feedback and the suggestions that a counselor has to make can benefit all parties involved in the short and long term.

Sometimes families who meet with a counselor may also know other people who work with professionals. It can be tempting to compare situations, outcomes, or time spent in counseling, but this can be neither helpful nor productive. As previously noted, no two individuals or situations may be exactly the same. One family may be in counseling for a few weeks, while another may work with a counselor for several months. There may be no right or wrong answer or ideal designated period of counseling; every family tends to be on their own journey.

There Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

To this day, there can still be certain stigmas associated with mental health services. Sometimes, people may be made to feel as though there's something wrong with them if they seek professional guidance. This is not true.

The reality is that no matter who we are or what family we may be part of, we may all face issues from time to time, and that's alright.

Try Online Therapy For Additional Help

Online therapy can be an excellent resource if you’d like to speak to a licensed mental health professional about the issues your family is experiencing. You may connect with a therapist individually or with your partner. A couple of benefits of online therapy can be scheduling sessions outside of typical office hours and attending sessions from the comfort of your home or anywhere you have an internet connection.

As this study explains, online therapy generally has the same rates of efficacy as in-person therapy, so please know that either option can be helpful and beneficial, whether you’re going through family problems or experiencing mental health issues of your own that you’d like to work through.


You may be able to procure free family counseling services from certain community organizations or local religious groups. Through family therapy, you may find that your family becomes stronger as a unit and gains a deeper understanding of each other. However, you may run into difficulties if families have poor reactions to the counselor’s feedback, or if not all family members are willing to participate in counseling. To speak with a therapist about family issues one-on-one or with your partner, you may wish to try online therapy.

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