Together with the increasing pace of modern society and technological improvements, it appears
that students’ psychological needs, complaints and methods of communication have also
changed. At the University of Pretoria (UP) between January and October 2012 the most
frequent problems presented at Division Student Support (DSS) were stress, anxiety and
depression relating to academic, personal and particularly interpersonal relationships.
Unsatisfactory interpersonal relationships appeared to have a detrimental impact on academic
performance, which could culminate in the termination of studies. This highlighted the need for
more effective psychotherapeutic interventions to improve communication and interpersonal
relationships. Traditional psychotherapeutic approaches no longer appeared to be as effective.
Increasing numbers of students suggested group intervention as opposed to individual
psychotherapy. It was postulated that a semi-structured relationships development group (RDG)
grounded in the inter-psychic approach could address the contemporary needs of students.
Such a group of seven UP students was formed in April 2013. Initial findings based on the
feedback from these group members show the semi-structured RDG to be an impactful and
effective short-term psychotherapeutic tool to improve the quality of communication and
interpersonal relationships of students at South African institutions of higher education. This
would allow students who may be at risk of academically underperforming to improve their
academic results and in doing so improve the academic success and throughput rates at South
African institutions of higher education. Further research is advocated to verify these findings at
other South African institutions of higher education.