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Jesuits News Youth The effect of minicourses on the emotional depth of teenagers

The effect of minicourses on the emotional depth of teenagers

They arrive from all over Italy and never want to leave. This summer 180 young people aged between 16 and 18 took part in the three minicourses offered in Selva di Val Gardena. 40 animators participated. This is a privileged place to observe and listen to the youngsters, their stories, their wounds, revive their dreams, and their hope. Sharing some thoughts on the subject is one of the animators, Vittorio Bachelet, 38, a university researcher, at Capriolo who came along with his wife and two children.

Building an adult identity

“In the adolescents who attend the minicourses we see above all the need to build their own adult identity in a free discussion about what they experience in the family. In recent years in particular, we observed more fragile adolescents, who instead of provoking and challenging the adult world, tend rather to question whether they can trust that world, as they badly need to do so in order to grow.

The method

We commence from the stimuli that emerge from the group of young people formed on the first day. There is no prepared theme by the animators, but it is the participants of these mini courses themselves who show us the existential questions that are closest to their hearts. For example: what is the adult world I am facing and how can I become part of it? From this type of questions, we then work in subgroups on the individuals: using drawing and spontaneous acting as techniques, each teenager can give free rein to the conflicts that he or she is going through and experiment symbolically an “integration” together with the members of the subgroup.

An individual and shared journey that gives new energy

The experience works, and is unique in its kind, precisely because it offers adolescents a place to express their deepest needs and conflicts, which they need to focus on and overcome, in order to grow in full freedom. And it allows them to do this together with other adolescents who, to a certain extent, share those same needs and conflicts, despite their different ‘backgrounds’. It is not, in short, an individual journey, but a shared one, albeit centred on the uniqueness of what each person experiences. The group manifests a great power of support and transformation, so much so that the adolescents return home happier, relieved, and full of energy, as the families themselves always testify and bring along brothers and sisters, and friends, which is a sign of the richness of this educational experience.


“I never imagined that in ten days it was possible to create such close bonds with people I didn’t even know, sharing intimate aspects of my life so deeply as to leave a mark forever,” 16-year-old Elisa looking back on the 10 days she spent in June at the Capriolo writes.

“In the subgroups one has the chance to come to terms with everything which we usually leave dormant inside us,” confirms Alice, a peer, “what we feel, but never manage to look at and call by name. This gives you the chance to become more aware of yourself, your weaknesses and strengths. I have listened to other people’s stories for a long time, always being very impressed but at the same time amazed to realise that I have only lived my life at the most superficial part, to realise that behind every behaviour, behind every smile, behind every joke there is a story, an experience that I could never have imagined. Listening to others allows us to understand that we are not alone, that what we thought could only touch us has also touched someone else, perhaps in a different way’.

From discovery to renewal

“I was a minicourse participant myself,” Vittorio says, “so I distinctly remember the amazement of discovering the Selva minicourses. It was such an important encounter that I returned to the place as an animator too, driven by the desire to keep alive this dimension of emotional depth that one is able to experience in Selva and to make the younger guys experience it. It was, moreover, in a course for animators that I met my future wife. Today we return, with our two children, to Capriolo to keep these burning embers alive, which continue to nourish our adult life, as a family and as a couple”.

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