“I feel so silly,” my new client says soon after I come inside his home. He nervously makes tea while continuing, “This is a silly haircut and my beard should be fuller. Or maybe I should be clean-shaven. Have you been in Colorado long? Oh, maybe I shouldn’t ask that. Is this like therapy and I’m not supposed to ask you about yourself? But I feel like we could be friends…”
“You’re welcome to ask me about myself,” I say soothingly. “Whatever you want to ask or talk about is totally ok. If I don’t want to answer something or I’m uncomfortable with a topic of conversation, I’ll let you know. And if I’m not comfortable, I promise to let you know gently. I won’t yell at you or shame you or tell you you asked the wrong thing. Ok? “
“That sounds … good.”
“In fact, let’s take a few minutes to settle in. I’ll let you know the boundaries and guidelines of our session so you aren’t guessing. We covered some of this on the phone but I want to remind you that our session is confidential. Whatever you say here stays between us. Even if it turns out we know some of the same people or I see you in a social setting, I won’t mention anything from our sessions. In fact, I’ll wait for you to say hello to me, or not, as you choose. I won’t be offended if you don’t acknowledge me. It’s completely up to you.
Touch is completely up to you as well. We can touch but we don’t have to. If we touch we so something like hold hands or lean on one another, I can give you a foot rub, we can spoon, or you can curl up on my lap. You can be held or hold me any way you want and I promise to only do what I am completely comfortable doing. I won’t endure anything uncomfortable, and if I need to speak up or move, I’ll do it gently. Again – no yelling or shaming. You’re welcome to ask for anything you want. as long as it’s within the Code of Conduct. How does this sound so far?”
“It sounds good. I like how kind you are and how clear this is.”
“Great,” I say offering a high-five which he enthusiastically accepts. “Will you make the same agreement with me? That you won’t do anything you’re uncomfortable doing? You don’t have to give me a reason. You could want to change because you’re curious about something else, your arm fell asleep, or a whole host of other reasons. You can share the reason if you want to but you don’t have to. Just saying “I’m uncomfortable” or moving is sufficient. So do you agree that any touch or conversation will be what you want? And if it’s not what you want, that you will speak up or change?
“Yes. That sounds really good. I’m feeling more relaxed, now. Can we hold hands?”
And thus begins a fairly typical therapeutic touch, aka Cuddlist, session. The client starts off fairly nervous. They aren’t sure what they’ve gotten into. It’s not part of our normal cultural narrative to reach out to pay for touch that’s not a massage and not sex work. Cuddlist sessions are neither. Purely platonic, everyone’s clothing stays on and there is no making out or other sexual contact.
Each therapeutic touch session is about noticing what you, the client, want and asking for it. Along the way you build trust in yourself, your body, and your desires. You build trust that you can keep and honor boundaries. You develop a vocabulary for expressing comfort and discomfort that will make a difference in all your relationshipos. You begin to trust that you will no longer tolerate touch you don’t want and didn’t ask for.
This kind of touch and connection heals shame and trauma. For many it works better than talk therapy to help you feel safe in your body. Clients who see me regularly over time often find that the satisfying personal relationships that have been eluding them for years, are finally theirs. In other words, my clients start dating and moving into serious, long-term relationships where they are happier than they have ever been before. Is that something you would like to have out of working with me?
I would love to see how I can support you in your relationships. Reach out and let’s have a conversation today. I look forward to connecting with you and making a difference in your life.