A significant proportion of the counselling that people receive takes place within informal, situated encounters between service users and practitioners in fields such as nursing, medicine, teaching and social work. However, almost all of the research that has been carried out into the process and outcomes of counselling consists of studies of formal, contracted counselling and psychotherapy based in therapy clinics and offices. The competent and effective delivery of counselling that is embedded in a primary professional role, such as that of nurse, teacher or social worker, presents considerable challenges for practitioners. Research evidence around the process and outcomes of embedded counselling represents a valuable resource that has the potential to enhance the quality of counselling conversations enacted by practitioners in health, education, social work and other professions. An overview is provided of different types of research that has been carried out into informal and embedded counselling, and of the main themes that have emerged from these studies. Suggestions are made for the further development of this field.