"I've heard of that!"
"...I've just never known anyone who did it."
"What? You get paid to do what?"
"I'm not sure what that is, but it definitely sounds like something you would do."
"I wouldn't tell anyone you do that..."
"Does your boyfriend know you do this? How does he feel about it?"
These are all the responses I have gotten from my friends when I tell them what I do for a living. I mean, this is really just *one* of the many things I do, but it's by far my favorite.
So what exactly is professional cuddling?
Professional cuddling is a therapeutic way to receive touch in a consensual yet non sexual way. It is a form of touch therapy that has shown to have benefits in reducing stress², boosting our immune systems¹, and helps dementia patients maintain their levels of intellectual and emotional functioning and decrease levels of aggression and stress³
I have seen it make drastic improvements to my client's lives. I have seen people suffering from depression, loneliness, anxiety all feel so much better with their oxytocin stores refilled. I've had messages from clients thanking me for a session earlier in the week because without it, they wouldn't have made it through this hard thing they had to go through a few days later.
Our society today is very aversive to touch, especially if you're male, and this isn't even COVID related. While society says men shouldn't want to seek out touch in a non sexual way, I'm here to tell you that yes, it is ok. Your feelings and needs are valid. You are heard. There is such a focus on sexuality in our society that many people struggle with or don't even know how to feel a safe connection with just touching and holding in a platonic way.
So what exactly happens in a session?
There are three parts to every session that I have. The first is when I arrive, I greet my client with a smile and an optional hug (not everyone is ok with a hug right off the bat, and that's ok!). We talk about their day, what's going on in their life, and we get comfy with each other. It can be a bit awkward cuddling with someone you just met after all!
Then we move on to the opening agreement and discussion of boundaries and consent. I discuss with my client about where I do and do not like or want to be touched and they do the same. There is absolutely no touching of anywhere that would be covered by underwear. I also verbally confirm with my client that if at any time they feel uncomfortable that they should speak up. No explanation is necessary. If they need to adjust, feel free to adjust. If they don't like something or want to change their mind, they are free to do so. They are also free to stop the session at any point. I will also collect payment at this time before we move on to the best part.
And now the good stuff! Once everything is agreed upon and understood, we get to get on with the cuddling. I prefer that my clients lead with what they like and what they are comfortable with. If they're not sure, that's ok! While it can be uncomfortable to be unsure, it can be good to learn to be in that moment and sit with it. If they would like, I can also make suggestions or lead the session. It's up to them, and I want to make sure they get the most out of it. We can watch a movie, have deep conversation, or even just sit in the silence and relax.
At the end of the session, I will have a 10 minutes left timer. We will slowly come out of our cuddle. The oxytocin will be flowing, and it's normal to feel a bit woozy afterwards. (I know that I have definitely experienced this.) We will discuss how the client is feeling and what they liked or didn't like about their session. At this time, they are free to set up another appointment or not.
I will usually follow up the next day or in the next few days to check in on them to see how they're feeling and to provide some general aftercare tips.
I get just as much out of this as my clients. I truly love what I do. My primary love language is touch, and I am a caregiver by nature. I am so glad to have found this calling in my life, and so grateful I get to share it with my clients.
¹Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R., & Doyle, W. (2016). Does hugging provide stress-buering social support? A study of susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness. Psychological Science, 26(2), 135–147.
²Light, K. C., Grewen, K. M., & Amico, J. A. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology, 69, 5–21. Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W. A., & Light, K. C. (2008). Influence of a “Warm Touch” support enhancement intervention among married couples on ambulato- ry blood pressure, oxytocin, alpha amylase, and cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 1–10.
³Suzuki, M., Tatsumi, A., Otsuka, T., Kikuchi, K., Mizuta, A., Makino, K., Saruhara., T. (2010). Physical and psychological effects of 6-week tactile massage on elderly patients with severe dementia. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, 25(8), 680–6.