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Paying for cuddles: Why 'cuddle therapy' is a growing trend

Traditional methods of therapy weren't working for a West Michigan man, so he turned to a more physical approach: cuddling.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Touch is the first, and perhaps most profound, language we learn.

Research from the Touch Institute has proven that touching and hugging can strengthen your immune system, lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.

And yet skin hunger is becoming an epidemic the United States.

"I was looking for something that I was missing -- I don't really date that much. Just affection, things like that," Adam Rasch explained. He is among thousands of people who are losing touch, literally.

A 2014 University of Arizona study coined the phrase skin hunger and found that people who experience an extensive lack of touch are lonelier, depressed and have more anxiety which Adam suffers from.

"Traditional things haven't worked for me," he went on. So, Adam turned to a non-traditional treatment: cuddling.

"I think people don't realize how important the work is. Or they think it's too taboo to try," Sherri Rogers said. Sherri is the only professional cuddliest in West Michigan. She acquired her certification through a six-week course that included a background check, interviews and working with a mentor. 

"I think people almost think that there's something sexual about it. And I think that's where the problem lies with people coming to see a cuddlist," Sherri explained.

Sherri and Adam's session begins with cuddling on the couch talking about whatever is on Adam's mind, “I try not to give advice. I'm just here to listen and hold this open space to be whatever it is and say whatever it is you need to say."

Adam's session eventually moves to a bed.

“There's a very fine line between emotional and sexual intimacy. And a lot of times those lines get blurred and people think you can't have one without the other. And that's absolutely not true." says Rogers.

Adam says his cuddling sessions are working, "I definitely notice after sessions the uplifting feeling that I get from the session." And the reason why he plans to continue, "I definitely want to improve my mental health, hopefully get some self-confidence."

Sherri says gaining self-confidence is one of the main purposes of a cuddlist, "They {clients} need some practice on how to talk and be intimate with somebody. You kind of make yourself a container for listening for whatever it is that they need to say. And that means sometimes being quiet and waiting for people to either summon the courage to ask for what they need. Or just be able to quiet their minds enough to know what it is they even want."

Sherri charges $80 for 50-minute sessions.

Cuddling is a growing therapy trend and researchers says it's because our technology and social media habits are removing human touch from our lives.

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