Could you use a good cuddle?
We live in an increasingly connected world. It has never been easier to keep in touch with friends and family or even meet new people. With platforms such as Snap Chat, Facebook and Instagram (or good old fashioned text messaging) you’d think we’d feel more connected than ever. But we don’t. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression are on the rise. One primary cause seems to be lack of physical touch. According to Psychology Today
“Physical contact distinguishes humans from other animals. From a warm handshake or sympathetic hug to a congratulatory pat on the back, we have developed complex languages, cultures, and emotional expression through physical contact. But in a tech-saturated world, non-sexual human touch is in danger of becoming rare, if not obsolete. Despite the benefits of digital advancement, it is vital to preserve human touch in order for us truly to thrive.”
There is a term for this type of loneliness, skin hunger. Simply put skin hunger is the “deep longing and aching desire for physical contact with another person.” Lack of physical touch can lead to anxiety, depression and loneliness. It can also manifest itself physically causing high levels of stress and insomnia.
Since hugging random strangers is generally frowned upon (something I know from personal experience), what is someone who needs a good hug to do? How about enlisting the help of a Professional Cuddlist?
Juno Moriah is a 31-year-old Professional Cuddlist living in Ferndale, MI. She originally went to college to study English with a focus on poetry and creative writing, but became much more interested in people rather than literature. Over the past several years she has focused on gender justice, sexual ethics, and healthy relationships. In 2016, she was a co-facilitator of a Relationship Skills Class for the LGBT community at Affirmations Community Center. The curriculum was originally created by the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse. She spent a few months as a street outreach volunteer with Alternatives for Girls, where she provided resources for women involved in the sex trade in Detroit. Finally, she also organized and facilitated a discussion group on transformative justice responses to sexual violence through the Hamtramck Free School. Currently, she is in the process of creating a Youtube channel on polyamory, sexuality, kink, self-improvement, and cuddling.
Here she explains what a Professional Cuddlist is and how it can help someone overcome feelings of loneliness and depression.
What is a Professional Cuddlist?
A Professional Cuddlist is a provider of therapeutic cuddling that has gone through the training program at Cuddlist.com. As professionals, we know how to communicate and respect boundaries and empower our clients to recognize and ask for what they want out of a session. It is those two things, boundaries and empowerment to ask for what you want, that make cuddling truly therapeutic for clients.
That is really interesting. When I think of a cuddle session I think of the physical aspects, how do you encourage clients to set boundaries and feel empowered?
At the beginning of each cuddle session I make an agreement with the client that we will tell the other whenever we are feeling uncomfortable with something. I then ask the client if there is anything that they would like to tell me about what they do or don’t like in a session. I also make an agreement with my clients to use affirmative consent throughout the session, which means we each ask each other and get a “yes” answer before initiating different forms of physical touch on different parts of our bodies. All of those things are meant to create a safe space for the client to voice how they feel about touch and promote being touched in the way they truly want. The verbal agreements we make, as well as verbalizing our feelings and boundaries throughout the session, are the empowering aspects of cuddling.
What drew you to this work?
I have always been attracted to supportive, healing, and educational roles in my community. I love to facilitate positive transformation for people. As a highly empathetic person, I derive great joy from seeing others become authentically happy and empowered. When I began the training with Cuddlist, I felt like I was finally creating my purpose in life, which is to be a healer in a way that people often overlook. It’s so rewarding to hear my clients tell me how relaxed, comfortable, and blissed out they feel after a session. That’s why I keep doing it.
How does someone become a Professional Cuddlist?
To become a Professional Cuddlist, you must successfully complete the online training program through Cuddlist.com. It’s a course that you can complete at your own pace which teaches how to engage and cuddle with clients in a therapeutic way. When you have finished the training, you are eligible to be listed on the Cuddlist website and to book clients through the site. We are encouraged to continue our training in consent by attending a Cuddle Party, which is also a consent and communication workshop. Furthermore, trained Cuddlists also have one of their sessions reviewed and approved by a trainer, which allows us to become fully certified.
Many professional have a code of ethics, do cuddlists?
Cuddlist has a Code of Conduct which all potential clients must read and agree to before booking a session with us.
Why do people seek out your services?
Clients seek out my services for a number of reasons, such as treating anxiety and PTSD, general relaxation, feeling close and intimate with another person, working on trust issues, and coping with loneliness and depression.
Have you ever felt unsafe?
For the most part, I have felt safe with my clients. Cuddlists in training are taught to come up with their own screening process to determine if potential clients are genuinely looking for what Cuddlist offers. All clients are initially screened through the online Cuddlist submission form, in which they are asked if they have read and agree to the Code of Conduct and why they are seeking a cuddle session. After that, I send my clients some information on affirmative consent to make sure that they understand what that means and that I will be incorporating that into the session. I then schedule a phone conversation to discuss in more depth what they would like to get out of cuddling, what they think of the information I sent them on consent, and if there is anything that I need to know about them that would affect our session. I also stress the fact that I do not offer sexual services of any kind.
There was a recent session in which I felt unsafe with a client at the very end of the hour. Unfortunately, he did violate the boundaries that we set up together. After that, I realized that there were some red flags that I chose to ignore earlier, which now would make me terminate a session sooner. I think that developing an instinct about clients and how safe they are to interact with is something that comes with more experience in the industry. A lot of Cuddlists have a more rigorous screening process than I do, which includes meeting with potential clients in person and having more in depth discussions with them. I am in the process of enhancing my own screening process with a lot of support and encouragement from Cuddlist.
Thank you Juno for sharing your very interesting and important work. If you are interesting in booking a cuddle session with Juno, you can do so here.