Cuddle therapy is the latest in personal care, but what is it?

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Health care options are no longer doctor’s appointments, massages, talk therapy of our parents’ generation. Today, you can get a boost of well-being through energy healing, jade rolling, or even a visit from a professional hug.

Bethany Heap is a professional cuddler. The owner of Cuddle Therapy Australia and the Cuddle Academy, she spends her days cuddling her clients through the former and provides training for those wishing to become credentialed cuddle therapists through the latter.

Here she explains what cuddle therapy is and what being a professional cuddler entails.

What is a professional hug?

Essentially, professional cuddling is about providing platonic (and it’s strictly platonic) companionship to people who feel lonely, isolated, and unable to seek solace elsewhere.

Sometimes they’ve had an experience they can’t share with their loved ones, and other times they want some segregation to process their thoughts.

Professional hugs are about providing a safe, non-judgmental platform for clients to rest, find support, cry, breathe. But it’s so much more than that. Each customer sees a professional hug with their own motivation. A professional hug provides space for a client to rest, relax, cry, sleep and feel connected to someone.

What are the scientifically proven benefits of hugs?

Hugs produce oxytocin. Oxytocin is a bonding hormone that promotes calm and security and reduces stress hormones. Hugs are a very effective anti-stress. A good hug can induce physical signs of calm like a slow heart rate and lower blood pressure. A healthy dose of oxytocin can reduce stress hormones that occur in unpleasant situations, and lower stress levels from hugs can also improve the immune system. Hugs can have positive effects on mental and emotional health by decreasing depression while increasing positive feelings (like connection and self-esteem). Studies have shown that a good hug can relieve pain, reduce anxiety, increase immunity, promote calm allowing for better sleep and can reduce the risk of heart problems (blood pressure, heart disease)

What are the benefits of cuddle therapy?

Clients often leave cuddling therapy feeling emotionally lighter. Well rested. Comfortable.

When I started, I had one particular client who was really uncomfortable with touch. They would flinch if someone touched their arm and would sit with great tension. There was just general unease and anxiety with any interaction they had. We worked on a long multi-session process that probably wouldn’t look very written, but for them it was very helpful. At the end of our journey, they were not only able to be present with me but also contacted me a few months later to tell me that they had entered into a relationship and that their ease at work had also improved. It just made their life a little easier. It’s gratifying to know that you’re empowering people in this way.

What inspired you to become a cuddle therapist?

I have always been a hugger. Hugs convey so much to people. It doesn’t matter if you’re greeting people, supporting them, congratulating them, consoling them, or befriending them over a joke or whatever – there’s a hug for it all.

I am a compassionate person. I give genuine hugs and love being there for people. Being a cuddle therapist was just a natural extension of the work I was already doing and resonated with my personality and my desire to offer comfort to people as best I could.

Does cuddle therapy meet a human need?

Absolutely, touch is a basic need. Our first communication is touch. The first act from birth is to have a baby placed in mum’s (or dad’s) arms – we are embraced as soon as we come into the world. Before we can talk, we kiss to show our love.

As children, we hug each other when we are happy and we hug each other for comfort when we are afraid. It is our first form of communication. Beyond infancy, for most children hugs continue to play a vital role in love, support and belonging.

As we move through our teens and into adults, we tend to get fewer and fewer hugs – and life starts to get a little more intense at this point. Realistically, adulthood should be the time when the cuddle dose increases, because adulthood can really suck at times.

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