I’m a certified professional cuddler and you can hire me for £70 an hour
“Spooning the man next to me as we lay on the bed, I felt his body relax. After an hour together, it was time for me to head home, and I chucked a jumper over my shorts and vest. I couldn’t be late – my husband and I had planned an evening together. However, unlike the stranger in my arms, he could cuddle me for free.
I’ve been a very tactile person for as long as I can remember. I was always the first to give someone a hug when they needed it, so getting paid to embrace strangers is my dream career.
It was while working as a care assistant in 2015 that I realised just how much power a hug could have. One of my favourite patients was a middle-aged woman who’d been left paralysed. For years she hadn’t been touched other than to be showered or moved, so when I first met her I asked if she wanted a hug. Despite her paralysis, she could blink to say yes, and her eyes lit up when I held her. From then on I’d ask her the same question each morning, and she always said yes. Knowing that I was bringing a sense of connection to her life was an amazing feeling.
In early 2016 I saw an article about professional cuddling on Facebook and realised I could put my hugs to good use. Of course, part of me worried I’d be signing up for a fetish service, but the more I learned about it, I realised that cuddle therapy was a serious and much-needed business involving completely platonic sessions that included talking, hair-stroking, eye-gazing, hand-holding, hugs and various cuddling positions.
My husband Rasti, 40, and I have always had a very strong, trusting relationship, so when I told him I wanted to do it – and that it would be strictly non-sexual – he was incredibly supportive. Although a few of my friends were really interested in my new venture, some warned me it was a dangerous move.
In June 2016 I set up a website for my cuddling service, and paid £150 to enrol in an online course that would see me become a certified professional cuddler through the world-renowned hug therapy group Cuddlist.
Over three months I learned about different embracing techniques and how to put people at ease. Although I kept up my day job, I also got my first client – a man in his 30s who’d got in touch through my website to explain that his stressful career and long working hours had left him feeling lonely. Knowing my safety was paramount, I set up a video chat with him to explain the boundaries and the exact service I was offering. I also sent over a consent form to sign.
Despite what people might think, there’s nothing sexual about the sessions, although on rare occasions my clients become aroused
I didn’t feel too nervous a week later when I went to meet him at a hotel, making sure I told someone where I was going. Once in the room, we exchanged greetings and chatted for a few minutes. Then, keeping our clothes on, we lay on the bed, where I gently cuddled him for the next hour. Afterwards, my client said he’d never felt more at ease and relaxed. It felt so good knowing I’d helped him.
After completing a number of assignments and having one of my sessions assessed, I qualified in January 2017. Since then I’ve seen over 40 clients.
So far all of them have been male, but I’ve had some interest from women who have experienced domestic violence and want to feel love and improve their trust. On average, the men are in their 50s, but I’ve seen some in their 20s. I charge £70 an hour, and I rent a room with a couch and a bed in central London, although sometimes I’ll see customers in hotels or at their house.
I’ve discovered there are a variety of reasons people need my service. Some clients are single and just want company, while others find it a form of stress or anxiety relief. I also see married men who tell me the love has gone from their relationship and their wives barely look at them any more. I don’t feel guilty cuddling them, because touch is important for all humans, and I’m helping them feel better.
Despite what people might think, there’s nothing sexual about the sessions, although on rare occasions my clients become aroused. When that happens, I tell them it’s a totally normal human reaction to touch, and make adjustments to our cuddling position or take a break while it passes.
I’m hoping to go full-time next year. I think my services are needed more than ever in today’s digital world, as it can be very lonely. We all need a hug every now and again, and I’m more than happy to be the one who gives it.”
It’s thought cuddling could help boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and relieve stress, pain and anxiety.
Strictly star Ashley Roberts admits to using a cuddle therapist while in the Pussycat Dolls.
For more info on Petra’s business, visit Harmonycuddles.com
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