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Hold me: Cuddle therapy catching on

Wednesday - 8/1/2012, 7:50am  ET

cuddle (Thinkstock)
The benefits of touch include lower heart rates and less anxiety. (Thinkstock Photo)
What about you? Could you envision cuddle therapy for those times you really need a hug? Post a comment in this story, comment on WTOP's Facebook Page or use #WTOP on Twitter.

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Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Doctors and therapists have long said human touch provides significant medical and physical benefits, but what to do when a significant other isn't around?

You could pay a stranger to cuddle with you.

So called "cuddle therapy" practitioners are popping up around the country, offering non-sexual, clothes-on physical closeness, for about $60 an hour.

Jacqueline Samuels runs the New York appointment-based cuddle business, The Snuggery.

She says clients feel energized and at peace after a session.

"Strangers aren't so strange once you cuddle for a minute or two," she tells U.S. News & World Report.

Professional cuddlers say the benefits are similar to those from massage. They include lowering blood pressure and and heart rate, reducing cravings and addictions and soothing stress, anxiety and depression.

"Touch is one of the great, untapped healing secrets of our society," says Wayne Jonas, of the Samueli Institute in Alexandria, Va.

Not everyone loves the idea of cuddling with the one you're with.

"My immediate reaction is that it's a little bit odd. There's no certification, and it seems a bit naive, like it could turn into something dangerous," says Mary Jo Rapini, an intimacy and sex psychotherapist in Houston.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)