Despite the shift in recent policy towards people with severe and long-term mental health problems, there is considerable evidence that mental health nurses tend to prioritize clients with acute, neurotic or short-term problems and become demoralized when working with people with persistent needs and disabilities. Mental health nurses need to find ways of developing effective relationships with these people in order to offer a service which the client is not only willing to engage in, but takes an active part in, and which allows care providers to derive satisfaction from their work. Through 46 in-depth interviews with case managers (working specifically with people with long-term mental health problems) and their clients, this qualitative study provides some guidelines for mental health nurses working in this field. Analysis of the interviews revealed that both clients and case managers focused on the problems and strategies associated with developing and maintaining relationships with one another. Furthermore, the interviews suggested that case managers adopted a philosophy for working that enabled both clients and case managers to feel positive about the work. The principles of this value base, and the way it was used in the process of case management, are explored in this account.