The objective of this study was to gain insight into the process that occurs when young people establish positive emotional relations with staff in ‘treatment collectives’ in Norway. Eighteen young people living in two social pedagogy-based treatment collectives were interviewed regarding their relationships with the treatment staff. Because positive relationships have been shown to be of great importance for the outcomes of treatment, this study’s main objective was to obtain insight into what the young people found important when establishing such relationships with staff members. Our findings suggest that certain of the collective’s structural factors and staff’s personal factors contributed to the establishment of positive youth–staff relations. The main structural factor is that the core staff are resident with the young people, and the resulting continuity and trust this engenders. The main personal staff factors are attention, persistence and genuine personal affection shown for the young people in their care.