A professional cuddler who earns £75 for an hour-long hug is now hosting cuddle parties where strangers can snuggle in a group setting.
Trevor Hooton, 30 - who goes by ‘Treasure’ - set up their cuddle therapy business in May 2022.
Treasure charges up to £75 for an hour-long cuddle session as well as ‘connections coaching’ to help people struggling to build relationship others.
Their business - ‘Embrace Connections’ - is now offering ‘cuddle parties’ for £30 a session where people can come together “to explore and enjoy non-sexual physical connection in a safe, structured environment”.
The cuddle parties see groups come together and spend time gaining trust and understanding physical touch - before gathering for a “shared comfortable, cozy cuddling experience”, also know as ‘cuddle puddle’.
Treasure explained what they offer is “more than just a hug” - it’s about “pouring care, affection and goodwill into someone through touch”.
They admitted not everyone understands exactly what their business offers - with some mistaking it for sex work.
But Treasure insists professional cuddling is “not as novel a concept as it seems” and thinks everyone should give it a go.
Treasure, who is originally from Montreal, Canada, but now lives in Bristol, said: “I built a business based on my passions for building human connections.
“Many people struggle to make those and that’s where I step in.
“It’s more than just cuddling - it’s giving people the things they need, whatever that might be.
“The parties have been great, and I think it’s a really great way to provide value to lots of people at once.
“I want it to have a really big impact on the world.
“I’ve done four parties so far and each one has been unique and special in it’s own way.
“We have a very mixed group - some people are single and unfamiliar of touch but want to develop comfort.
“On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are used to being touched and want more of it.
“Either way the participants seem to walk away from it and love it.”
Treasure first began looking into the science behind human connections 10 years ago, as they found it fascinating.
But it wasn’t until 2021 that they began working to turn it into a business, which launched in May 2022.
Embrace Connections offers a range of different services - including ‘connections coaching’, a session which aids your ability to build relationships with others, and ‘cuddle therapy’ - where people pay for a one-to-one hour’s cuddle session.
Treasure has now added their ‘cuddle parties’ to their list of services with the next one planned for Valentine’s Day.
Describing the new service, Treasure said: “The first section of the party is a welcome and arrival and brief discussion of the expectations and boundaries of the space.
“Then we do a set of workshop activities to help people arrive in their own bodies and meet one another and learn to how to interact with one another.
“This is important because if you were to just drop people in to this environment and say ‘have at it’, there could be problems.
“Then after an hour of that we have a break and have some food together and get to know each other more.
“After that, I reset the room and then the cuddle puddle begins, which is when anybody can pile on and cuddle.
“Over the course of the rest of the evening some people stay in the cuddle or some leave and have some pair cuddling, massages, or simply get a cup of tea.
“Some people are strangers at the beginning and then at the end they feel close and powerful.
“I don’t think these parties are for everybody but for the people who do come its’s really special and powerful thing.
“I’m challenging the unspoken rules of society and think by challenging the rules we can reach something better for ourselves.”
Treasure has asked Valentine’s Day attendees to wear red and is also setting up a card making station as an extra touch.
They said: “The space holds 25 and we’ve nearly reached that. It’s just nice to be held on Valentine’s Day.”
Treasure’s most popular service is the ‘cuddle therapy’, where people pay £75 to be hugged by them.
They said: “It’s always a non-sexual, platonic intimacy, based on whatever the person wants.
“We meet, go over guidelines to ensure we’re on the same page, and then structure the session based on what they want and their boundaries.
“There is a lot of checking in to see how they feel and what they want - whatever helps them to feel safe and calm.”
They told how the unusual service is different for everybody - and it can take some work to find the most effective approach.
They even confessed it can be a little uncomfortable at first - but that it is worth it in the end.
Treasure said: “It can be awkward - it’s a weird thing and not typical for most people to step into being intimate with a stranger.
“People come with their own insecurities or preconceptions but I do my best to help find a place where they are comfortable.
“And if the person starts to feel the start of something sexual, we communicate about that and back off, because it needs to be non-sexual intimacy.”
Treasure had to learn the theory behind cuddling and said: “It’s about communication and building trust - when you hire a cuddle therapist, you are hiring their time, attention and care.
“When I am giving a hug to someone, I’m pouring in care, affection and goodwill through that touch.
“Hugging a stranger doesn’t do much, it has to be someone who cares about you.”