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Weird Jobs: Professional cuddlerby Ariel Min

WATCH:  The first thing Saskia Larsen, a professional cuddler and massage therapist, does with a client is set clear boundaries. Then they chat.

After getting to know each other and agreeing to communicate with honesty, they slip into a position for cuddling. 

"I was skeptical at first -- partly for my safety, and partly judging others' sanity," Larsen said, who first experienced cuddling with strangers at a cuddle party. "But the rules are well-explained so I felt really safe after that."

"The structure and boundaries free people up to get safe, nurturing touch."

Pro cuddler Saskia Larsen

Founded in January 2016 by Cuddle Party facilitators Madelon Guinazzo and Adam Lippin, Cuddlist currently offers service from more than 50 certified Cuddlists across the United States and a few in London.

To become a certified Cuddlist, you must complete at least 10 hours of online training, give and get a practice session with a professional and attend at least one cuddle party. There's also a weekly Skype check-in to provide ongoing support. 

'The power of touch'

"With cuddling there's been a burgeoning movement," Adam Lippin said. "Cuddle parties have been around for 11 years, there's a big free hug movement and there is an intuitive understanding that we all have: The power of touch."

Studies have shown that interpersonal touch reduces stress and improves social skills. Lippin wanted to make these benefits available to people who may not have much access to nonsexual intimacy. 

But even with clear rules and training, it can still be tricky and nerve-wracking to share such intimacy with strangers. 

'It can be a little awkward'

"Sexual arousals do happen, and it can be a little awkward," said Brianna Quijada, professional cuddler at Cuddlist. "But the point is to not encourage or manipulate those feelings. You can shift positions or take a break."

"I was worried that my husband would be jealous when I first signed up. But he trusts me," Saskia Larsen said. "So far I think it's had a positive impact on my relationship with my husband. I wish there was a Cuddlist for him."