We’ve all had those days when all we need is a big hug to lift our spirits, but finding a pair of comforting arms to wrap us in a comforting hug isn’t always easy.
In fact, it seems that a simple hug is so hard to come by these days that it’s paved the way for the latest self-care trend — cuddle therapy.
Loan hugs may seem fancy to some, but the growing trend has seen trained therapists charge upwards of $100 an hour for the privilege.
While several studies have highlighted that hugging can boost immunity and reduce stress, not everyone has access to a warm hug when they need one in an increasingly disconnected world.
Perth-based professional cuddle therapists, Jo Brook and Anna Huband, felt touchless themselves when they decided to explore this emerging wellness trend.
“In 2018, I wanted to receive more touch, so I got massages, but it wasn’t the kind of touch I wanted,” Brooke recalled.
“I wanted to feel connected to another human being and was already familiar with professional cuddling so I looked for a practitioner in Perth and couldn’t find one. When I asked my friend if she knew anyone she said no but it seemed like there was a gap in the market so the seed was planted for me,” she adds.
For Huband, it was the all-too-understandable dilemma of needing a hug but not feeling comfortable asking for one.
“I’m a naturally loving person and I’ve been single for a while and even though I hug my friends and my parents I guess I just felt the need for a longer physical connection, maybe a little longer, maybe a little deeper, that’s why I have I started looking online to see what’s available there,” she reveals.
“I suppose I could have just grabbed my friend and said if you mind if you hold me for a long time, but I didn’t, I thought they would find it a bit odd.”
Both therapists completed extensive online training to become professional cuddle lists and have been offering their services ever since.
In a cuddle therapy session
They can take place at a client’s home, sometimes in a hotel room, and even overnight services are available, but one thing Huband and Brook realize when they take a job is that cuddle therapy isn’t code for sex.
“The screening process filters out any people who think it’s code for it and makes sure you get the people who actually want soothing, nurturing, and therapeutic touches,” reveals Brook.
Under a code of conduct, platonic sessions are left entirely to the needs of the client.
“As long as it’s in that code of conduct container and it’s mutually agreed upon, there aren’t really any hard and fast rules,” explains Huband.
According to Brook, the sessions start with a chat to go through all the housekeeping rules and the client signs a waiver agreeing to the code of conduct.
“I ask questions about if they have any sensitivities or injuries in their bodies, what kind of touch they would like, how much touch they would like to receive. I work intuitively and also with what I’ve learned in the training courses,” she says.
Brook says consent is a big part of every session and touching isn’t allowed in areas that a bathing suit would cover.
“I make it clear what parts of the body we’re going to touch,” she says.
The entire session is very gentle and clients can be guided through different snuggle poses on a couch or in bed as needed.
“We never go to bed, we never get under the covers, it’s always on the bed, I always bring a blanket and a pillow, a pillow for my neck and we can put the blanket over us or when we spoon,” reveals Jo.
Cuddling can be done with or without eye contact, with spooning being one of the most popular options.
Why do people stop hugging?
Combating loneliness is a key motivator for clients, but Huband says not all of her clients are single, and sometimes it just comes down to having busy lifestyles and feeling the need to connect.
“I’ve had clients who have had partners and they’re generally pretty busy with their lifestyles, busy with work, busy with commitments. They might be a bit shy or anxious or just want to be held with no other expectations,” she reveals.
“Sometimes it can get a bit confusing because you really want to be touched and held and you kind of go out and have sex instead and it’s not really what you want but you don’t really know what other options are available” , she adds.
Both Brook and Huband say their main demographics are younger to middle-aged males, but Brook noticed a shift a few years ago when a third of the customers were female and even some college students were in the mix.
“I’ve had a few clients who have had touch trauma in the past and they just want to feel more secure when they’re receiving touch and they want to feel more secure in general so that when they start dating again they just have more confidence in the whole Touch issues,” reveals Brook.
“That’s huge, but most of the people I’ve noticed come because they’re feeling loneliness, anxiety, stress, PTSD, ADHD, whatever.
“I know people come to me because socializing, cuddling and feeling good is part of their self-care routine.”
Brook says her clients often feel calmer and more connected to their own body, and also benefit from feeling that sense of connection with another person.
Usual cuddle poses
Brook reveals that some poses are more for nurturing and others are more for grounding. She shares the most popular cuddle poses among her clients:
The client leans back against the cuddle therapist who wraps his arms around him. There is no eye contact with Lazy Boy, which some customers prefer.
Koala in a tree
This is the most popular pose. The client lies on their back and then the therapist rests their head on the client’s chest so that they are the tree and the therapist is the koala holding or wrapping their arm around the client.
Mama bear, baby bear
A really common pose where the therapist sits upright, usually on the bed, and the client sits in front facing the same direction. The client sits between the therapist’s legs and then leans back on them.
https://www.perthnow.com.au/lifestyle/cuddle-therapy-meet-the-perth-therapists-behind-the-latest-self-care-craze-c-7569530 Cuddle Therapy: Meet the Perth therapists who are paid to offer hugs to Western Australians