Home Health

A Freudian Snuggle Session: All About Cuddle Therapy

couple cuddle

Life is emotionally hard, and sometimes all you need is someone to hug, or better yet, cuddle with to get you through it all. You know, someone to cozy up to, close your eyes, and exchange body heat and platonic care and concern for each other. Unfortunately, this resource isn’t readily available to all of us—even people who have a qualifying significant other can’t always get the cuddles they need. That’s why there are cuddle therapists, trained cuddle professionals.

What is a Cuddle Therapist?

Cuddle therapy isn’t new, but it certainly hasn’t been around that long. Its specific audience also makes it less known than other touch therapy practices like massage therapy. Despite its limited appeal, the quirky nature of the practice has resulted in increased attention over the years.

In a basic sense, cuddle therapy is a nonsexual physical intimacy service. It is a holistic treatment for loneliness, stress, anxiety, touch deprivation, and other turbulent emotions. You know how there is dog therapy for stressed-out college students during finals? This is like that, except with people (and obviously, you don’t play with them like a dog).

How Does Cuddle Therapy Work?

A typical session would involve a meeting before the cuddle session begins between the therapist and the client. They would discuss any hesitations, anything that makes them uncomfortable, etc. Once specific guidelines and boundaries are set, and the client discusses how they would like to be cuddled, the cuddling begins! During the session, there could be music, talking, silence, or all three, and the therapist is there to hold and listen. Sessions could last anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours, and some cuddle clinics offer virtual cuddling sessions.

Virtual Cuddling Sessions

Strange to think about, I know. Touch therapy you would expect to be touch—how else could it work? Well, it does, somehow. 

Virtual cuddling therapy is more of a mental cuddling, offering companionship and traditional therapy and stress management techniques. A client may experience guided meditation, deep breathing, active listening, experience exchange, and consent training. Virtual is a great option for those who cannot leave their homes or dislike physical touch.

The idea of virtual cuddling, though weird now, holds a lot of promise for the future. Who knows what virtual cuddle therapy solutions the world of VR will come up with?

What’s the Science Behind Cuddle Therapy?

Cuddle therapy is technically a form of touch therapy, so there is quite a bit of science to back the practice up. 

Touch therapy operates on the idea that physical touch activates the orbitofrontal cortex. This part of the brain sits right between the eyes (orbits, being your eyes; frontal being the front part of your brain). The orbitofrontal cortex plays a major role in social-emotional behavior. It is also linked to feelings of reward and compassion. 

Even a simple touch can activate this part of the brain and ultimately increase the positive outcomes of certain situations. For instance, Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch Therapy Institute, found that, unlike the stigma that surrounds autistic children and touch, they enjoy being massaged. Another study conducted at UC Berkeley showed that a teacher’s eye contact and a friendly pat on the back can boost student participation rates.

Touch therapy also increases the body’s production of oxytocin and dopamine. These hormones help with cognitive function, relaxation, focus and attention, memory, and social bonding. 

Benefits of Cuddle Therapy

That said, the benefits of cuddle therapy are many.

  • Aids in pain management
  • Helps sleep for those with insomnia
  • Improve immune system and heart health
  • Lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress
  • Restore a feeling of connection to the world around you

Of course, the results of cuddle therapy depend on the person. A) not everyone will enjoy it simply because not everyone is a “toucher,” and B) physiological responses to touch hinge on pre-existing conditions, mentality, experience, etc.

Only if You’re Comfortable

Cuddle therapy is not for everyone, but you shouldn’t rule it out entirely. Even if your physical space bubble is small, this is still a form of professional touch therapy. A therapist will do all they can to make you feel comfortable during your snuggle. And hey, maybe you’ll walk out of their office feeling a little more right with the world! Or you can still avoid it altogether—the only good touch therapy is consensual.