Q & A with Kristiina
Q & A
1. How long have you been doing this job for? What lead you to this profession? I began my cuddle career three years ago when I first came across the concept of cuddle therapy by US professionals. It felt like it wasn’t just a coincidence as I had often been thinking about how helpful it would be to have such a type of a human-oriented and practical therapy to help people feel less isolated, anxious and disconnected from touch - especially, in today’s world, where we have all experienced the negative effects of information overload among many other problems that are constantly on the rise; there’s something very comforting being wrapped up in a hug. The other aspect that led me to this profession had a lot to do with me being born in Estonia - a country of introverts who have mastered their poker faces but not so much the open expression of their emotions and body language, and so are more tech oriented than tactile beings. As a child I always felt like I had to restrict and suppress that part of myself to fit into the societal confinements, thus, after leaving Estonia many years ago I began to search out for ways to learn and discover more about different cultural expressions, holistic approaches to life and ask myself what could be our true essential needs as human beings. Diving into the world of cuddles and touch helped me to realize it doesn’t need to be complicated. It felt like a natural transition and an exciting opportunity to remind people to reconnect with themselves and others around them; and also help to create together an atmosphere of love where people could feel held, relaxed, safe, seen and empowered.
2. How do you proceed on a classic consultation? What are your steps? Prior to cuddle session the client would receive from me a copy of the Code of Conduct and the Client Service Agreement, which they should sign and return in advance of the session. After this I would exchange emails or have a zoom call to find out more about the client and what they hope to gain from the session, alongside with other similar questions. For example, what are their comfort levels and boundaries around touch? This part of the process is as important as the cuddle session itself as it helps to ensure transparency and protection for both parties at all times. Lastly, I would tailor the session accordingly to the client’s individual preferences, take them through the steps and make sure they are happy with the structure. Usually, if the client is not sure what they would like to experience, a general cuddle session structure can be applied and modified throughout the session as needed.
3. Do your clients often come back after their first appointment? Yes, there are many clients who have returned to me regularly since the beginning of my career; other clients wish to try this kind of alternative touch therapy just as a one-off experience; there are those who like to switch between different practitioners; clients who try this service out during their travel holidays; and, for example, people who have searched out cuddle therapy for specific reasons for a limited time such as to help with the recovery from anxiety, depression, PTSD, body numbness, insomnia, low self esteem, loss of a loved one, social anxiety etc.
4. Would you be able to describe your client base? London, where I conduct all of my sessions, is a melting pot of different cultures so that means I get people from all around the world: USA(mostly from New York); various European countries that are close to England such as France, Italy and Germany; and many Asian countries, for example, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. At least 50% of my clients are British people and Londoners themselves. There are both females and males who are interested in cuddle therapy, although both of them usually choose for their practitioner to be their opposite gender which means the majority of my clients are males. The average age group fluctuates between thirties and sixties.
5. Based on the way a person is hugging you or on the way they receive your cuddle, do you get a glimpse of their personality? Does it tell you something about them? Yes, a simple hug and cuddle can convey a lot about someone’s personality without any words needed. Our body language and touch gives many clues to others about our personality, our current emotional state and even our history around touch. An open and relaxed body language suggests an open, relaxed and outgoing personality while closed off body language could be a sign of someone more private, reserved or shy. 6. Could you give an example? Based on my personal experience throughout the years I have definitely noticed that as Europeans tend to have a more reserved personality, they need a gentler and slower approach to cuddles. Initially, their body might be incredibly tense even during holding hands or a simple hug. When the client is, for example, from USA I can already guess the chances are good that they approach me with a warm and enthusiastic hug, are already comfortable with lots of eye contact, different cuddle positions and remain quite expressive and lively with touch throughout the session. The same goes for Asian people as their culture is very warmly interactive; somehow it also translates them being more active and relaxed cuddlers. 7. Do you think being a natural of cuddling and overall physical contact, is something that depends on our nationality or our culture? Or is it an international body language? While it’s definitely true that our nationality, culture and upbringing acts like a large filter through which we have learned to express our tactile nature, it’s not set in stone. I think it would also be useful to think in terms of “The Five Love Languages” that Gary Chapman has introduced us to be the most common among people; one of them which is Touch. Introversion and Extroversion affects how touch is received. For example, extroverts gain energy when they are close to others so physical contact acts as a kind of a ‘pick-me-up’, while introverts might be more selective - sometimes enjoying physical affection and other times feeling drained by it. But leaving aside all of the labels, I would agree that touch is an international body language indeed - one that we all share as human beings. In many ways, touch is our first language and sense to develop as babies and it can be explored and developed further along throughout our lives. 8. Among your customers, do you feel any difference depending on their culture or does it depend more of their personality? Yes, both of the culture and the personality could simultaneously affect our need and expressions around touch. For example, you could be an introvert from an extroverted country such as Brazil or Spain, whose love language is touch so that means you would probably be pretty good at, and open to, cuddles and hugs while socialising, yet needing a lot of alone time too with no human contact and touch involved in it. Many of my customers are just like this kind of mix and so it’s never ruled out that people from the same countries and cultures may have very different ways of cuddling. I would just add, the third key factor that often affects the person is child developmental trauma and the amount of touch and affection they have received from their parents in childhood.
9. With the experience you gained practicing this singular profession, taking a step back how do you see our society and our way to physically interact?
After becoming a cuddle therapist it has become increasingly clear to me that humans are a social species and that people’s health tends to be good when other people around them are kind and supportive. Vice versa, people can actually die from rejection and isolation. I think we won’t endure long as humans without forming rewarding and nurturing relationships around us. It’s time for our leaders to step up and ask how we could build community in a modern world, where everything is advancing at such a fast pace that our biological needs are in danger of being ignored or disrupted.
10. How are you dealing with the coronavirus crisis?
I remain hopeful! Although sessions have had to be on hold for a while, my email inbox is full of regular and potential future clients inquiring for sessions once restrictions end. Some of the experts on touch therapies field predict that after covid- 19 people won’t want as much touch as before the pandemic, but I feel the opposite is true and that there will be even more advocacy for cuddle therapy and more people all around the world will come together taking pride in the power of touch, real life interactions, spending time with their friends and loved ones, hugging them a little harder and holding on to each other a little longer.