Just recently the first ever “cuddle convention” was held in Portland, OR. An enterprising professional cuddler produced it and a friend of mine sent me an article in The Daily Beast reviewing the event. It had a playful enough tone in the beginning, but the tone of the article darkened as he reported that the therapists and psychiatrists he talked to found professional cuddling to be dangerous.
There are now numerous practitioners nationwide, which I suppose means it is now an industry. I can appreciate that untrained workers could do damage to their clients, but I take issue with the blanket assumption that all mental health professionals are against professional cuddling and find it dangerous.
I have actually had hugging sessions with numerous therapists and at least one psychiatrist. I have presented my work to a number of licensed therapists and have had referrals from therapists for my version of cuddle therapy, which I call either hug therapy or meditative holding. I don’t believe any of them would describe my work as dangerous, and a number of them would call it valuable.
So I take issue with the journalist’s easy denunciation of this burgeoning profession. At the very least, it felt poorly researched and quick to judge. I do not know the work of the practitioner in question except for what I have read in the media, so I can’t really vouch for the legitimacy of her work except to say that she seems to approach the work with a good heart.
Let’s have more real curiosity about this phenomenon. I would agree that training of practitioners is valuable and necessary. This new profession would do well to form some code of proessional standards. Touching people intimately is not without its psychological and physical hazards. I know this from experience. But I also know that, done skillfully, it is something that clients find valuable and healing.
Innovations are often condemned by the establishment. Remember when chiropractry and acupuncture were considered to be illegitimate by doctors? I remember when psychiatrists looked down on the work of psychologists. And let’s face it, something called cuddle therapy is an easy target. But not so fast…