We are delighted to share an interview with Vanessa, who is one of our cuddle therapists, and also a finalist from the inaugural National Massage Championships! Vanessa speaks about what it’s like to be a cuddle therapist, who would make a good cuddle therapist and how cuddle therapy complements massage therapy.
Has cuddle therapy benefitted your work as a massage therapist?
Yes. It’s good to remember that both massage therapy and cuddle therapy are important, but different practises. As a massage therapist, I focus more on the mechanical aspects of practice, giving, fixing and working with the muscles. In cuddle therapy, the healing experience is more shared, as both the client and I share energy through our hugs.
What aspects of being a cuddle therapist do you enjoy?
Being able to learn the power of touch in different ways. Two of my first experiences with cuddle therapy were helping someone at the end of their life, and preparing a mum prior to giving birth and going into labour. Both of these experiences had a profound effect on me.
Through cuddle therapy, I’ve also learnt a lot about myself. I’ve been through many personal challenges, and I feel able to empathise and connect with clients on a deeper level through my own experiences.
I’ve seen first-hand that cuddle therapy has psychological benefits, especially for those who have depression and people who may be lonely. This made me realise that cuddle therapy has helped me look after my own mental health, which in turn has enabled me to help my clients.
We’ve also come to realise the importance of touch as a result of COVID-19, where many people have suffered from touch deprivation. I’m grateful that we’re now beginning to understand and talk about the importance of touch and cuddle therapy.
What have been the challenges for you?
Boundaries are essential for working as a cuddle therapist, given that we are providing a therapeutic service and feel-good hormones like oxytocin can create a strong bond between a practitioner and a client. It’s therefore essential to maintain both boundaries and professionalism at all times.
New practitioners may have some reservations about working as a cuddle therapist, as this is a new form of therapeutic touch. People might also question charging for the service we provide. But it’s important to remember that this is a form of therapy, much like massage therapy or any other and each therapist has undergone training and background checks to provide sessions in a competent manner.
Based on what clients tell you after your sessions, do you feel that cuddle therapy and massage therapy both provide a range of benefits for the client?
They are two completely different experiences. In massage, you address more of the physiological ailments, whereas cuddle therapy has psychological benefits. We work more with the power of skin-to-skin contact and the emotional aspects. In my experience, this has more profound results than a stand-alone massage.
In my personal practice as a cuddle therapist, I try and draw upon my background in various therapies to provide a customised session for each client. As such my sessions may incorporate aromatherapy, background music and massage as well as cuddle therapy. I firmly believe that all cuddle practitioners bring a unique energy to their sessions and I advise my clients to try sessions with other practitioners, to see what works best for them. I also believe that different therapies work well for different people and it’s worth clients trying different therapies to find the most suitable one for their needs.
Who would you recommend a cuddle therapy course to?
I think many people could benefit from this course, and learning about the power of touch and the effects of touch deprivation. In this sense, even clients could learn more about themselves and how the therapy could help them, by studying the course.
My advice for anyone wishing to become a cuddle therapist is to really get to grips with boundaries and maintaining a professional attitude in all your sessions. I think it helps to be a compassionate, wholesome person who is keen to understand human behaviour. Self-care is also important, because you can’t always look after other people if you don’t look after yourself.
It’s not as easy as 123, but it’s a continuous learning process which I take very seriously and honour and learn from the feedback I get back from every client.