What is a professional cuddler and how does touch therapy work?

We spoke with Arlington-based professional cuddler Indigo Dawn to learn more about the therapeutic method and its health benefits.

professional cuddler indigo dawn cuddling a redheaded child
Indigo Dawn (left) is a professional cuddler in the Northern Virginia region. (Photo by The Intentional Life)

The benefits of physical touch include lowered heart rates and blood pressure, feelings of love and acceptance, reduced symptoms of depression and more. Neuroscientist Edmund Rolls proved that physical touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, linked to feelings of reward and compassion. Touch therapy can come in many forms (think: that massage at your favorite spa or holding hands with your partner) and is a surefire way to feel better. One growing trend? Cuddle therapy. Professional cuddlers are paid to cuddle—platonically—if you don’t have a friend available for a snuggle sesh. Here, we spoke with Arlington-based professional cuddler Indigo Dawn to find out more.

Describe cuddle therapy.

Cuddle therapy fills a niche that is complementary to traditional talk therapy. In the traditional mental health profession, therapists can do a lot of great work but cannot touch clients, and touch is a core human need. It releases oxytocin and it also facilitates the development of authentic connection and the type of secure attachment that some people may have never had in its fullness. It can really provide a base for health and wellness and happiness.

How is a typical session formatted?

I will have clients sit across from me and talk about the basis of our session, that we are willing to speak up if something’s uncomfortable, just being really honest with each other. Then I will talk about explicit boundaries of the space to reaffirm and create the structure, because without me feeling safe, the type of healing that this service can provide is not possible. I give the client an opportunity to share their personal touch boundaries. I talk about the types of touch that I really love and ask them if they really love them too. I lead a short meditation. Then from there I will open up the space and I’ll ask them, “What do you most want in this moment, knowing you can change your mind because it’s a wide-open space?” Most clients have been envisioning spooning or what’s called the koala-style cuddle, but all sessions look different.

What are the main benefits for your clients?

I haven’t yet had a session where a client didn’t leave with a little smile on their face, and the tension drops in their jaw and their face around their eyes, their shoulders. Their breathing slows and there’s a visceral relaxation. Many clients will come away with an empowered sense of connection and self-awareness and self-esteem. // Sessions begin at
$100 an hour

This post originally appeared in our May 2020 print issue‘s “40 Ways to Find your Zen” feature. For more health tips, news and features, subscribe to our weekly Health newsletter.

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