Unfortunately, most are basically collection agencies (they are often paid a percentage of their collected revenue by creditors), are cutting less and less generous deals, and often encourage debtors to pay much more than they would if they went bankrupt without doing much to help a consumer's credit rating (usually very poor befeore they even walk in the agency's door).
At worst, some agencies are corrupt, divert funds meant for creditors to others, and provide no meaningful advice on budgeting.
No, this isn't just me carping. The IRS agrees:
The IRS has concluded that more than 30 credit-counseling firms -- accounting for more than half of the industry's revenue -- are not entitled to tax-exempt status.
Forcing people who have already contacted a bankruptcy attorney and recognize that there is no realistic way out of their debts to deal with this corrupt industry is counterproductive.