Living through a pandemic has by no means been easy for anyone; whether you live alone or with your partner, one can often forget to flex their vulnerability muscle and miss out on deeper intimate connections with your partner or even yourself. The Cuddle Couple believes that being touched is a primal need for human beings, and sometimes it is this that helps there be greater understanding and vulnerability between a couple, it can also generally help you better connect with people and be open to being more intimate.
During the last year, with social distancing, homeschooling, working from home, we may be losing out on the simple power of touch. We may take it for granted that because you are always around your significant for so long, working in the same space and sharing so much time together, that you have become more connected and closer to them – but that is not the same as intimacy. Introducin’ you to the just cutest cuddly business venture started by a married couple.
Emma Janssen & Pablo Perez are a BIPOC couple that have, through their personal individual traumas and experiences, realized how powerful authentic connections through touch can be and how much they needed them throughout their life – as both were deprived of it while growing up. Surprisingly, they launched their business during the pandemic and made it flourish in person in the Summer of 2020 when restrictions were temporarily lifted in Toronto and you could meet people. There was a huge need for human connection as the entire world had just disconnected abruptly, couples who were going to therapy together were suddenly not able to, and there was understandable friction between those living at home, unable to go out.
But both Emma and Pablo believed that this was just the perfect time to get deeply intimate, break the fear of touch and feel loved as so much previously unsurfaced trauma was coming up for individuals, be it job uncertainty, unemployment, and a general increase in anxiety. Their business is doing well and is steady; even as there are now stricter stay-at-home measures in Ontario, they have transformed their services to virtual sessions that cater to cuddle couple therapy and relationship counseling. They offer a virtual free consultation before conducting any scheduled sessions, so whether it is a continuous therapeutic service you require or a one-off – this is your must–go!
How did the idea of the Cuddle Couple come around?
As crazy as it sounds, we actually started the business taking a huge leap of faith during the pandemic! Although we had been working on it for a while. When the world was put through such a trying time, we were forced to get some time to focus inwards and, of course, also having to support those around us – we thought there could be no better time to launch the Cuddle Couple officially!
Both of us had, challenging journeys individually, even before we met each other, during our childhood and adolescence and both of us were lucky enough to realize that there was a deep lack of human physical touch that one would normally associate with being cared for – and then of course with realizing this we were lucky enough to find each other. Two generally caring, loving people who really believe authenticity and care lies in the power of touch.
Growing up, Emma barely received any physical touch, while Pablo also faced with a similar upbringing, found himself joining communities for touch-positive people. For both of them, this meant that there are so many people in the world that felt a similar need and lacking, some of them recognized this and some of them don’t. Especially during the pandemic, when so many pent-up feelings, insecurities, and traumas were seemingly surfacing, you would always have each other to connect to.
Most of all, this initiative isn’t just centered around romantic couples, the impetus behind the Cuddle Couple is to share touch, connection, and vulnerability as a lifestyle and habit in one’s lives. Their experiences only cemented the idea that no matter the power of words and connections, touch, if lacking, is so difficult to live with as you grow older – you may develop a fear of intimacy, commitment, and intimacy, and this could negatively impact so many interactions in life.
At the same time, finding touch and people who like being physically expressive with each other is challenging, so we thought, why not try to take our experiences and cultivate it. It is already there within each one of us; we must tap into it by practicing it regularly to really bring it out. Therefore, the Cuddle Couple emerged very organically out of our own love for hugs and closeness, the recognition of our strengths as a team, and our strong desire to help restore connection, intimacy, and a caring sense of community to the people around us.
What is your formal education and training in counselling and coaching, which of course, coupled with your experiences and passion for bringing change, added to your ability to bring The Cuddle Couple into existence?
Our work results from many years of personal work, life experiences, and formal training that we have each acquired. Each of these has contributed to what we can offer today, and while both of us have traveled along different paths to get here, the energies and skills that we use together are beautifully complementary and help provide a rich and unique experience for each client.
Pablo’s background primarily lies in years of experience with meditation, dance, and movement-based practices, as well as coaching work. Emma has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and also brings a strong movement background and coaching experience. We each also bring a very personal story regarding intimacy and touch and have had to overcome significant pain and abuse in our lives before being able to get to this happy and loving place in our lives.
Since your business is physical touch-focused along with relationship therapy, how have you tweaked your services to a more virtual platform during the lockdown?
While we had already been working on opening up our business beforehand, when Covid hit, we were left with a choice: do we wait until after Covid when the situation improves and we can cuddle in person guilt-free, or do we take this opportunity to adapt and support those going through a hard time as best as we can? Of course, we chose the latter and have felt extremely grateful to have been able to help so many people since.
When we first opened back in the summer of 2020, the Covid restrictions in Toronto were relatively loose, so we were, in fact, able to work with some clients in person while still taking essential safety precautions. As the situation became more restrictive, we moved all of our services online, choosing to focus on the relational coaching aspect of our in-person work – looking at how we relate with ourselves and those around us, and moving through the challenges that may arise as we look towards building more loving, caring and thriving connections.
Our online sessions have been a great success – not just with those feeling alone but also with couples, students and many others, near and far – and while we are very eager to return to in-person sessions, we are also thankful that this pandemic pushed us towards being able to implement a permanent virtual support service for those further away.
Tell us a little bit about the services?
We offer two main types of service: for now, virtual, cuddle therapy sessions and relational coaching sessions through zoom. Both types of services offer two sides of the same coin – a way to explore the questions or challenges that surround intimacy, connection, communication and vulnerability.
Both offerings can be done individually or with a partner. The standard price for a session with us (whether it is virtual or in-person) is CAD $90/hour. For sessions with couples, the standard price is $135/hour. For in-person skin-to-skin cuddle therapy sessions, our standard price is $110/hour. That being said, we offer customizable packages which bring down the cost per session (most of our clients go with packages). We also offer discounted prices to those who have been financially impacted by covid.
Through our work, we offer a space for people to rest, relax, and sink into their own bodies more. We provide cuddle therapy and virtual coaching we have been offering exactly that – a space you can set aside in your week to be with yourself, celebrated by both of us, while you explore all the warm, vulnerable, silly, and at times, weary sides of yourself that may just need space to be seen and respected in a co-created, safe space.
What is the input and revenue of your business like these days?
Thankfully, both of us having had training and experience in coaching and consulting, we were easily able to pivot to an online model, making it easier to continue our work and offer support. Since we first opened, we have had a steady stream of people from all walks of life seeking our services. Some of our clients are one-offs just looking for a time to relax and be there with us, but most choose to commit to a certain amount of weeks or months in order to sink more into the benefits of this work and feel the full effects.
What is your larger vision with this venture?
The main thing we want to offer is the courage and strength to lean on one and another. We aim to change the way people approach intimacy, communication, and friendship, by leaning into the strength that comes from supporting one and another. We offer an alternative approach to relating with the world, fostering curiosity, resilience, and better understanding after realizing how vital physical feel is.
The Cuddle Couple will aim at creating spaces and platforms where people can open up and allow for deeper conversations to happen, which offer more clarity, and where touch and intimacy can be felt and understood beyond the exclusively romantic or sexual standard they often fall into.
We both grew up experiencing and noticing how little people have to say when it comes to fostering healthy relationships and creating a healthy sense of self-esteem through touch. We want to be able to tell people that even if you haven’t felt it or seen it growing up between your caretakers, you can still feel it, you do not have to be scared of it. Through our work, we offer tools to explore all the challenges and questions that can come up when unpacking what touch, intimacy, and relationships can mean. Once this exploration begins, people soon find themselves liberating parts of themselves they never thought could be fuller, happier, and more at peace than previously experienced.
Any words of wisdom steps for those trying to do similar unique businesses, but their strategy/business focus relates to physically being there?
Adaptability is core to the human experience: be open to exploring what lies at the heart of your practice/service/business and refine what you want to offer the world. Create virtual settings that are informational, community-building, relationship-building, and supportive – we need that human connection nowadays!
Remember that the business’s focus is switching from product to process and centers around building more and more relationships between client and service provider. Finally, surround yourself with supportive people and businesses that will be there to champion you on and help you thrive!
How do you improve your understanding of this important facet?
We are in constant touch with cuddle professionals, somatic and touch practitioners, therapists, and coaches, and a general point of connection between all of us is the importance of human connection. Isolation is something many people suffer through in silence, having never known anything different. Our observation is vital for people to feel into what makes a relationship fulfilling – be that their relationship with themselves, their co-worker, employee, family member, or acquaintance.
The question really comes down to: how do you connect with the world around you, and how can we explore that to deepen our relationships further? Many will come up against their own vulnerability, fear, and courage across all of these fields. Whichever supportive route towards self-exploration and healing clients choose, step by step, they can begin to unpack what may be weighing them down, making room for a space to breathe into who they truly are.
What do you feel you need to see The Cuddle Couple flourish to its true potential?
To help our business flourish, we need to continue adapting and creative with how we may have to offer our services. Since our business and our industry are relatively new in North America, one of our greatest tools in the years to come will also be our ability to educate and inform more people about what we do, how we do it, and how it can be beneficial. Finally, significantly as Covid restrictions loosen, in-person and virtual community-building programs and workshops will offer an excellent continuation to the work that we are already doing.
If you have a podcast, host community events, communicate to people via newsletters, or think that what we do is cool, please reach out as we would love to share our work and collaborate! Cuddle therapy is a very young but needed service, and it will only benefit when the concept becomes more familiar.
For more information kindly visit:
The Cuddle Couple Website: www.thecuddlecouple.com