IOWA -- From a simple hug to a full body embrace, a new profession is giving people the warm fuzzies.
“It's innate. We have to have human touch,” says DMACC Counselor Sheila Aukes.
As babies, we are cuddled, yet as adults, we often forget that we still need touch.
“Ok, would you like to be the little spoon or the big spoon?”
Questions like that might raise a few eyebrows, and so will Michelle White’s job description.
“I say that I'm a platonic touch practitioner because it kind of covers the whole gamut of touch,” explained White.
She is a professional cuddler and gets paid to touch, hold and comfort her clients.
“When people ask me, 'who is this for?' I say, if you have skin and a heartbeat and can talk, this could be for you,” joked White.
For wife and mom Becca Hodges, a cuddle session is part relaxation, part therapy.
“It's comfortable enough to just say what’s frustrating you and what's hurting you and things you just need to let go of,” said Hodges.
So who is paying to be cuddled?
“I see people all across the board. Ages 20 to 70. Those who might be on the autism spectrum, those who are dealing with chronic illness and it's hard for them to be touched in certain areas of their body, but they still want that connection,” said White.
No two cuddling sessions are the same. They are tailored to your level of comfort.
“There's so much research that shows the benefit of touch, so it just makes sense that this industry has come up as a way to meet some of that need,” said Aukes.
Cuddling as a type of therapy is rooted in the healing power of touch. As you would expect, there are a lot of opinions when it comes to the growing industry.
“We still have a tendency as a culture to sexualize touch, and that's why I think we have a lot of taboo about touch because so much of it now we're trying to teach people about what is good touch and what is bad touch that we're going the opposite way of not touching at all,” said Aukes.
Getting up close and personal isn’t for everyone.
“That's OK. I don't try to convince anybody,” said White.
“It's just a different of relaxation. I feel like it's more of a relaxation. Kind of for your soul than your body,” said Hodges.
The cuddling industry isn’t regulated. An online search shows a list of professional cuddlers in about 40 states. However, not all of them are trained or certified. Right now, White is the only certified cuddler in Iowa. She went to Colorado to get hands-on training and paying a monthly membership through the Cuddlist website.
An hour long session will cost you $80. You can find more information about the industry at www.cuddlist.com White will be teaching a class for people interested in becoming professional cuddlers in July. You can find her at www.consciouscuddle.com