The purpose of this paper is to introduce the Life Thread Model, which incorporates established psychological and social theory related to identity change following an acquired disability. It is supported by a growing body of empirical evidence and can be used to broaden our understanding of service provision in rehabilitation. We suggest that a limited appreciation of social and psychological processes underpinning rehabilitation has led to different agendas for patients and professionals, lack of recognition of power relationships, negative views of disability, and insufficient professional knowledge about the management of emotional responses. The Life Thread Model, based on narrative theory and focusing on interpersonal relationships, has been developed following ten years of empirical research. Using the model, the balance of power between professionals and patients can be recognized. We suggest that positive emotional responses can be supported through (a) endorsing a positive view of self, (b) 'being' with somebody as well as 'doing' things for them; and (c) seeing acquired disability as a time of transition rather than simply of loss. This model highlights the usually hidden social processes which underpin clinical practice in acquired disability. Recognition of the importance of discursive as well as physical strategies widens the possibilities for intervention and treatment.