Alternatives for coercive treatment in psychiatry, based on partnership between clients, social networks and social workers, need to be given full attention. Despite its potential to inhibit isolation, self-exclusion and reduce coercion, organising Family Group Conferences (FGC) in this field is complex. The process of a FGC may evoke shame and unbelief in the willingness of people to help out. Furthermore a lack of reciprocity in relationships can contribute to the stagnation of the FGC process. The goal of this article is to understand relational dynamics between clients, relatives and friends in the carrying out of a FGC, by applying theoretical concepts on symbolic capital, recognition, reciprocity and gift giving derived from Bourdieu. Using the analytical strategy of ‘thinking with theory’, we selected three FGCs suitable for illuminating both challenges and opportunities, viewing each FGC as a social field. Bourdieu’s theoretical concepts help to understand and overcome difficulties in organising a FGC so participants can discuss, decide and negotiate relational dynamics in the field. Working with FGCs requires for social workers a shift in doing and thinking, facilitating the primary group to discuss expectations, diffusion of tasks, commitments and plans.