Since the early 1970s, the CRAPEL (Centre de Recherches et d’Applications Pédagogiques en Langues) has been running and experimenting with various kinds of self-directed learning systems, that is, pedagogical structures whose aim is to help learners to learn to learn as well as to learn a language. Typically, such learner-centred approaches provide learners with two main kinds of support: access to a wide range of materials through some form of self-access system or resource centre and access to a person specialized in the field of independent language learning, often known as a ‘counsellor’ (Gremmo and Riley, 1995). It is generally agreed that learners working in self-access systems may benefit from ‘counselling’. But there are considerable problems involved in saying just what counselling is and how it differs from teaching or therapeutic discourse. This has important implications for the ways in which we train learners for independent learning.