The Rise of a New Wellness Field: Professional Cuddling

cuddle

There are scientific studies that have shown the health benefits of touch. But I don’t need to reference those studies. On some level, all of us already know the value of touch.

The importance of touch is intrinsic and self-evident. We know something is missing when our lives lack touch, and the studies that draw a link between a lack of touch and symptoms such as depression and anxiety only make it official. We may not know that our eating disorder or our alienation comes from a lack of touch, but we feel it. We know that we need more touch in our lives.

Still from the documentary "Cuddle"

Still from the documentary “Cuddle

The problem is not that we fail to see the value of touch. The problem is that we don’t know how to meet that need. The emerging discipline of professional cuddling offers an answer.

Any two people can hug or cuddle with each other, but in practice most of us don’t. Family touch is directed toward our significant other, but this gets flattened by sex and becomes all about genitals and orgasms. Cuddling with friends is not socially acceptable, especially for men, and there’s always the tension of taking it in a sexual direction. The situation is even worse for busy professionals and those without a romantic partner.

Professional cuddling fills the void.

What professional cuddling offers is the space for the authentic, non-sexual touch that each of us needs. We are not paying the professional cuddler to touch us, which would be impersonal and subtly exploitative. The professional cuddler is paid for time and undivided attention with consent. It is about touch, but really it is about the connection that comes from touch.

Paying for cuddling ironically leads to a more authentic and connected experience, according to Madelon Guinazzo, director of training for Cuddlist.

That’s because we have many demands on our time, so when we cuddle with friends or a significant other we’re often not fully present. Instead, we’re thinking about the clock and the pressures in our lives. Or worse: We’re cuddling with motive. We might have a goal in mind as we cuddle, such as getting an orgasm or sweetening up the other person so they will do us a favor later.

There’s also the issue of authenticity.

“We may get touch and cuddling elsewhere in our lives, but we care about what the other person thinks about us,” says Madelon. “So we act a certain way, and we don’t always communicate our feelings. We’re less true to ourselves and our authentic self because we want to impress.”

These issues are overcome when we pay someone for cuddling. We’re buying their time, so they are completely focused on us. It is a professional relationship, so we can be honest and not worry about approval or hiding our true selves. Yet it also is an equal relationship, so there is real intimacy and meaningful touch.

What makes professional cuddling interesting and different than massage and psychology is that it is a mutual experience. With massage, only one person is being touched. With psychology, the life of only one person is being explored. It is a client and service provider relationship. This isn’t really the case with professional cuddlers, however.

“Someone paying me to focus on their touch needs sounds unequal but it is not,” says Madelon. “We’re both sharing the touch experience, and we’re both also getting our needs met. They are meeting their specific touch needs, and I’m meeting my need to make a living doing what I love. We also both agree to never do anything we’re not totally comfortable with. So it is less transactional and more of a shared experience.”

This mutual experience addresses our touch needs more fully than massage, the leading existing way to pay for non-sexual touch. Wrapped up in our biological need for touch is connecting with others—seeing and being seen. Massage gives touch and serves other meaningful therapeutic needs, but it is not mutual so it doesn’t meet the emotional side of our touch needs. Professional cuddling does meet that need.

Cuddling can rightly can be seen as a new therapeutic discipline emerging to meet the basic needs of society, much like psychology emerged more than 150 years ago to address unmet mental health issues.

Cuddling as a way to meet our touch needs already has grown on a grassroots level, and there are both cuddle parties and pockets of people offering paid cuddling. What’s lacking now is the professionalism and best practices that make cuddling not only effective, but also respectable, safe and reliable.

That’s where Cuddlist comes in. We all need more non-sexual touch, but most of us can’t get it. Professional cuddling meets the need, but those practicing the new discipline are scattered across the country and vary in quality and experience. Cuddlist brings together these cuddling professionals, trains and certifies them in best practices, and makes them easy to find.

There was a time in the recent past when depression, anxiety and mental health issues were felt but not addressed. We knew there was a problem, but we didn’t have a professional system to deal with it. Now we have psychology and growing awareness of mental health issues.

Our touch needs mirror mental health concerns in those earlier days. We know we need more touch, but we can’t get it. Professional cuddling is rising to meet that need, and pioneers like Cuddlist are making sure that this new therapeutic discipline takes root and reaches its promise.

Peter Kowalke handles Cuddlist editorial and is the founder and lead coach for Kowalke Relationship Coaching. You can follow Peter on Twitter and read more of his writing through his email newsletter.

 

Making Cuddling a Professional Therapy

The importance of touch is intrinsic and self-evident. We know something is missing when our lives lack touch, and the studies that draw a link between a lack of touch and symptoms such as depression and anxiety only make it official. But most of us can’t get our touch needs met.

Cuddlist.com looks to change that.

Currently there are Cuddle Parties (cuddleparty.com) and pockets of cuddling enthusiasts throughout the United States who practice therapeutic, non-sexual touch on a paid or voluntary basis, but finding one of these parties or cuddle enthusiasts can be a challenge. There’s also the issue of professionalism: While the therapeutic benefits of touch are well known, there’s currently no certification body or school where professional cuddlers can learn best practices and show they know their stuff.

That’s where Cuddlist.com comes in. The site, founded professional cuddler and Cuddle Party Facilitator Madelon Guinazzo and former yoga teach, Adam Lippin, brings together these cuddling professionals, trains and certifies them in best practices, and makes them easy to find.

Cuddling can rightly can be seen as a new therapeutic discipline emerging to meet the basic needs of society, according to Guinazzo and Lippin, much like psychology and professional massage.

What makes professional cuddling interesting and different than massage and psychology, however, is that it is a mutual experience. With massage, only one person is being touched. With psychology, the life of only one person is being explored. It is a client and service provider relationship. This isn’t really the case with professional cuddlers, however.

“Someone paying me to focus on their touch needs sounds unequal but it is not,” says Madelon. “We’re both sharing the touch experience, and we’re both also getting our needs met. They are meeting their specific touch needs, and I’m meeting my need to make a living doing what I love. We also both agree to never do anything we’re not comfortable with. So it is less transactional and more of a shared experience.”

Read more at Cuddlist.com