Drawing on a national study of independent mental health advocacy, we explored the social relations of independent advocacy. The study was commissioned by the Department of Health (England), and involved a case study design covering eight different geographies and service configurations, and interviews or focus groups with a total of 289 stakeholders across two phases of inquiry. This paper focused on the analysis of qualitative data relevant to the relationship between mental health‐care services and independent advocacy services, drawn from interviews with 214 participants in phase two of the study. Discussion of these particular findings affords insights into the working relations of independent advocacy within mental health services beset by reorganizational change and funding cuts, and increasing levels of legally‐sanctioned compulsion and coercion. We offer a matrix, which accounts for the different types of working relationships that can arise, and how these are associated with various levels of understanding of independent advocacy and appreciation for the value of advocacy. The discussion is framed by the wider literature on advocacy and the claims by practitioners, such as nurses, for an advocacy role as part of their professional repertoire.