What Is Professional Cuddling? We Tried The Latest Fad In Self-Care

The term cuddling likely brings to mind two people in a relationship, a parent and their child, or a group of exhausted college students lending each other their support. At its best, cuddling is a small tender moment shared between significant others. At its worst, it's something people have no business attempting on a crowded subway car.

Now an emerging niche market positions cuddling as a new form of therapy and self-care. In the past ten years, cuddling has evolved from a simple display of affection to a successful industry centered around the philosophy of consent. But why has professional cuddling become so popular?

A quick Google search for professional cuddling reveals hundreds of individuals and companies that cater to clients seeking professional cuddling services. This trend extends beyond large cities, with professional cuddlers to be found everywhere from New York City to a small town in rural Alabama.

Adam Lippin, CEO of Cuddlist, spoke with Newsweek about his unusual company and his belief in the power of therapeutic touch. Noticing our technological society's tendencies to isolate people, Lippin believes professional cuddling can act a "grounding force" and connect people to one another. "To have that kind of connection [consensual therapeutic touch] can spark a change of consciousness, which can allow real healing to happen."

Saskia Larsen, a licensed touch practitioner through Cuddlist, echoed that sentiment. She told Newsweek that while she started as a massage therapist, she says professional cuddling allowed her a deeper connection with her clients. "I feel a lot of what other people feel … so it actually comforts me more to comfort other people."

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We tried professional cuddling, a new form of therapy that is becoming very popular. Here, Saskia Larson, a licensed touch practitioner through Cuddlist, is guiding Newsweek's Alexis Wierenga during a cuddle session. Newsweek/Cuddlist

Professional Cuddling has been labeled a new millennial fad therapy - along with avocado toast and goat yoga. It's true that research shows that both millennials and generation Z have higher rates of mental health issues than previous generations. A study by the Pew Research Center found that teens between the ages of 12 and 17 saw an eight percent increase in "major depressive episodes" between 2010 and 2016.

However, it's not just millennials seeking out alternative forms of therapy. When discussing clients, Saskia emphasized that she saw a wide range of people with a variety of backgrounds, most of whom felt "isolated by the current culture" and "overwhelmed by the uncertain political climate."

While most people wouldn't mind more cuddling in their lives, professional cuddling tends to spark questions about awkwardness. Therapy is one thing, but hugging a stranger presents as a somewhat daunting task. For Larsen, physical touch, doesn't even have to be part of the session. Instead Larsen lets the client lead, even telling Newsweek she has spent entire sessions "at the opposite end of the couch because that was her [the client's] comfort level."

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Saskia Larson, a licensed touch practitioner at Cuddlist, is guiding Newsweek's Alexis Wierenga during a cuddle session. Newsweek/Cuddlist

Since their start in professional cuddling, both Lippin and Larsen have only seen interest grow in professional cuddling. Larsen sees that shift as part of a broader understanding of the importance of self-care and mental health. "I think humans are beginning to evolve and become more open and understanding about what basic human needs are, and touch is a basic human need," she explained.