Background The recovery processes of persons with complex mental health needs take a slow and unpredictable course. Despite the fact that a number of essential building blocks of recovery in this population have been identified (e.g. social relationships, treatment, personal beliefs), the actual process of recovery in persons with complex mental health needs largely remains a black box. The aim of this study was to gain insight into how the recovery processes of persons with complex mental health needs take place, by applying a relational geographical approach and scrutinizing the place-making dynamics of one low-threshold meeting place in Belgium engaging with this group. Methods Data collection took place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic by means of 11 in-depth interviews with different involved actors (service users, staff members, volunteers) and analyzed thematically. Results Results showed how the daily practice of the meeting place is continuously reproduced through place-making rituals that create an inclusive space of hospitality, are fueled by creative processes and form an indispensable counterweight for service users’ mental health needs. Conclusions To further open up the ‘black box’ of recovery in persons with complex mental health needs, it is vital to focus our analytic gaze onto recovery as a dynamic and relational practice.