By Jasmine Kazlauskas
A mum-of-three who rakes in £860 a WEEK from spooning strangers has opened up about life as a professional cuddler.
Jessica O’Neill began professional cuddling six months ago and could soon earn up to £45,000 [$79,000 AUD] a year by cuddling strangers at her studio based on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
The 35-year-old – who has spent a decade being a massage therapist and counsellor – has only recently introduced cuddle therapy to her treatment list.
Jessica claims the cuddles – which start at £46 [$80] an hour – help people suffering loneliness and depression to feel loved, valued and cared about.
She said: “I’ve always been a really affectionate person and have always cuddled people. It’s just in my nature and is part of who I am.
“My mother was always super affectionate and loving when I was young. Her hugs always made everything okay even if there were bad things happening around us.
“I’ve always had a really lovely response from the people I’ve hugged. Everyone loves a cuddle.
“I started massage therapy when I was 20. I then went on to do fitness instruction, nutrition and counselling.
“I love massage because when I touch people I can really pick up what is truly going on.
“Often people don’t express what their feeling, but through touch we can break down that exterior shell.
“When I started counselling, I just felt like my clients needed more. I wanted to be closer to them, so I could pick up on what they were feeling.
“It’s not normal to give your clients a cuddle. These environments are usually very clinical and sterile.
“It is extremely hard in those situations for people to let go of their false ego or hard exterior they’ve created for protection and unlock their true potential.
“It all started when I began giving my clients a hug when they’d come in for a counselling session. It totally allowed them to drop their guard and open up so much more.
“I could see their anxiety and tension melt away. Then I could get to the core of their persona and do what I can to heal them.
“So really, it was a long time coming. I first heard about cuddle therapy six years ago, and I remember telling everyone that what I wanted to do.
“They thought I was crazy, and probably still do. But I love it so much.
“It’s so much more rewarding than just massage or counselling. I feel like it’s what I was put on this earth for.”
Cuddle therapy with Jessica starts at $80 [£46] an hour for ‘strictly cuddles’ in the studio, while hugs and counselling costs £63 [$110] per session.
For those longing for the blissful combination of caffeine and cuddles, a ‘friendship style’ session of drinking coffee followed by cuddles will set you back £86 [$150].
Jessica said most of her clients are men over the aged of 35, but revealed she has a growing number of middle aged women seeking cuddles too.
She also claims that there are younger men coming in for cuddles due to experiencing ‘loneliness and disconnection’ in the digital age.
And despite the cuddle sessions being intimate, Jessica insists that 99 percent of her clients are ‘very well behaved’ and never cross boundaries – but has had ‘one or two’ awkward experiences.
She said: “Before we start our sessions, we do mediation to connect on that spiritual level.
“Then the clients will sit on a chair while we sit by their feet and we have a little chat about why they’ve reached out for cuddle therapy.
“Everyone has a totally different story. But the most common factors are loneliness, depression, isolation and anxiety.
“All of them just have that desire to connect with someone.
“Most of my clients are men over 35, but we have an increasing number of women coming in for cuddle sessions.
“They absolutely love it. It’s like being refueled with love and affection.
“I always feel safe and comfortable. I love what I do.
“There are very clear boundaries set in place and 99 percent of people would never dream of crossing them.
“If an awkward situation does arise, I assertively direct the client with no embarrassment or further issue.
“We often have sex addicts or porn addicts come in seeking therapy. It really helps them connect to their bodies in a healthy way.”
Jessica said her husband Jason, 34, has been there for her since day one and is ‘very supportive and understanding’ of her career.
She said: “Jason is very supportive and completely gets it. He loves what I do, and thinks it’s really beautiful.
“He is super affectionate and he gives me cuddles at home. Our relationship is what makes me so strong.”