The Scoop: Many singles find themselves in need of meaningful physical contact, and even people in relationships may feel a lack of that intimacy. Instead of seeking out sexual contact, which can be fraught with emotions and unhealthy attachment, those people can turn to Cuddlist, a platform that connects them with cuddle therapists. Trained Cuddlists offer platonic touch that is scientifically proven to make clients feel better and can also strengthen boundaries and enhance communication skills.
Scientific studies have proven that hugs — and meaningful touch in general — can release oxytocin in the brain. But that feel-good hormone, also referred to as “the cuddle chemical,” links with areas in the brain that do more than just help people smile.
Interpersonal touch can boost the immune system, make people less sensitive to physical pain, and help them relax in social situations. Research shows that a 20-second hug can make a difference in fight-or-flight situations — even if they happen much later.
But many people lack opportunities for meaningful physical touch. Some don’t have a partner, while others may be in relationships with someone who isn’t big on physical contact. Often, people turn to unhealthy sexual situations instead of seeking the comforting touch they may need. Those decisions can lead to other problems that add to their stress.
Cuddlist set out to address those problems by connecting people with trained cuddle therapists. The trained professionals seek to help heal past trauma and provide the care that people need through platonic touch, hugs, and holding. That can make a significant difference in people’s lives, especially singles.
Cuddlist Co-Founder Madelon Guinazzo likens the situation to someone going into a grocery store hungry. They’re more likely to buy high-calorie, processed junk food when they’re hungry than after they’ve eaten a good meal. According to Madelon, it can be the same when people need physical contact.
“If you are touch deprived and feeling starved for affection, you may not make the best choices as far as where you’re going to take a relationship,” she said. “You might jump into something more sexual or physical before you take the time to develop trust and healthy connection.”
Book an Appointment Securely Through the Website
Cuddling with a professional is about more than just receiving touch. Clients can practice giving and receiving consent and also learn to understand the concept of boundaries in a safe space. They can accomplish that without having to worry about misunderstanding or heartbreak.
“I saw what an impact it had on my own life, but as I started working with others, I got to see how drastically their lives could change,” said Keeley Shoup, a Certified Cuddlist. “The importance of platonic touch mixed with consent education was so transformative. It was so simple, but it was never taught to me in any other place.”
Clients can schedule a one-on-one session with a Cuddlist in their area. Sessions last anywhere from 90 minutes to six hours. Sessions typically start around $80 an hour, and rates range by city.
The other method is through Cuddle Parties, which are akin to group therapy sessions that cost around $20 to $50 per person for a four-hour session. Participants often find a meaningful connection with others in the group who are going through similar situations.
The company’s demographics lean toward people who have focused on their careers over their personal lives. Cuddle therapists also frequently work with those who have recently gone through a divorce or a breakup, or have difficulty in social situations.
Cuddlists also meet with many trauma survivors who are working through their emotions and trying to feel comfortable with physical contact again.
Trained Professionals Follow a Strict Code of Conduct
Cuddle sessions involve long hugs, hair stroking, and holding — along with many other intangible benefits. Each cuddling professional on the Cuddlist website has completed an extensive training program. The platform has both trained Cuddlists as well as the more experienced Certified Cuddlist. All of them follow a strict code of conduct.
Each session is fully clothed, and no alcohol or drugs are permitted. Most importantly, the sessions involve platonic touch, which means there is no sexual interaction. Any time someone feels uncomfortable, the therapist or the client can end the session.
Those platonic sessions can be especially beneficial for people who aren’t ready to get back into a sexual relationship but are feeling lonely.
“When a relationship ends, there’s a massive gap in the amount of physical touch they have access to. We provide access in a structured way,” Keeley said. “It’s not going to go a sexual way — or any way that they’re not ready for it to go. We’re a great substitute for a rebound relationship, and they can go on to make healthier choices.”
Each cuddle practitioner brings a unique personality to the table. The platform includes more than 1,400 trained Cuddlists located in more than 40 states and four countries. While they are trained in touch, they aren’t professional therapists, so the sessions are more casual than those with a psychologist.
“We don’t wear white coats, and we don’t diagnose you. We’re not therapists,” Madelon said. “We’re just like our clients. Yet, the relationship dynamic is not dating. It’s professional, so it is safe.”
Cuddlists often work with couples, too.
“Cuddle therapists will work with couples who have trouble connecting or communicating around touch,” Madelon said. “We have a lot of experience and offer strategies to reform their communication, so it’s deeper listening, empathetic, and receiving more fully.”
Cuddlist is Helping People Mend Psychological and Emotional Wounds
Because the relationship with a cuddle therapist is platonic, clients can practice their communication skills and even work through some difficult emotions.
Clients and Cuddlists also don’t text or talk between sessions. In fact, some trained Cuddlists won’t acknowledge their clients in public — unless the client approaches them. It’s part of maintaining privacy, which is one of the company’s codes of conduct.
Keeley said she had a client who was a teacher and father of two, and his children demanded most of his attention. He simply didn’t have a lot of extra time in his life for a relationship, but he recognized that he needed some self-care.
“Dating wasn’t really an option for him, but he knew he needed the comfort and companionship,” she said. “He did finally meet someone. He told her about seeing me and what that experience was like, and she loved it. After a certain point, he said, ‘Thank you very much’ and ended our sessions. It was a clean, simple success story.”
Another client was a man in his early 20s who had limited social experience and didn’t know how to act around women. He had trouble processing and expressing his emotions. After time with a trained Cuddlist, he gained enough self-esteem to begin asking women out. During his time with the cuddle therapist, he experienced his first kiss and even started dating seriously.
Cuddling helped him, as it does many others, work through those experiences that terrified him at one time.