In recent years, learner training has been undertaken in many programmes aiming to achieve learners' autonomy. Quite often, however, this training has only focused on the teaching of tactics and strategies, overlooking other important factors such as students' attitude towards autonomy, beliefs and expectations about language learning and teaching, personal needs and objectives, learning styles and self-evaluation. One of the premises of any self-directed programme, we believe, should be that of enhancing students' metacognition to prepare them for approaching their own learning autonomy. Such a programme should involve cyclic diagnosis of learners' beliefs about language learning, preferred styles, learning needs and objectives in order to endow the learners with criteria for choosing optimum strategies, resources and activities for their individualized programmes. The purpose of this paper is, therefore, to highlight the unifying role of metacognition in all levels of learner training. This paper describes an application of this principle including two examples in which the counsellors have made extensive use of this principle. Finally, we suggest some resulting pedagogical implications and several areas for future directions. © 1995.