By Michelle Renee, San Diego Cuddlist Certified Practitioner and Director of Cuddlist Care

I sat in almost every session thinking, “How does this affect me?  How does this affect my relationship? How does this affect my children?  How does this affect my clients?”

My mind was in so many places.  I’m so glad I made an attempt to “live tweet” my experience last week attending my first Psychnetworker Symposium as I’ve reread them just to remember the nuggets multiple times.  (You can find my tweets at @thetrojankitten on twitter)

The Psychnetworker Symposium just celebrated its 42nd year!  It’s a huge conference for therapists off all kinds. It was held in DC and I’m assuming it always is.  (I just went to confirm as it dawned on me: this is very important information as I’ve already registered for next year!) I remember receiving an email for the conference and forwarding it to my Cuddlist boss, mentor and friend, Madelon Guinazzo.  We are both geeks around our work and I saw Bessel van der Kolk, author of Body Keeps the Score, would be speaking as well as many other authors I recognized from reading their books. I was definitely sending it to her as a “wouldn’t this be a great fan-girl weekend?!”  To my surprise she responded, “We should see if Adam will send us!” Adam Lippin, Co-Founder and CEO of Cuddlist would be joining us in our biweekly meeting the next day. Oh, I should mention, I’m the “Director of Cuddlist Care” which has really turned into Operations Manager over the last 2.5 years, though a title change hasn’t been needed.  The three of us meet twice a week to keep everyone in the Cuddlist loop.

To my surprise Adam offered to pay for our tickets to the conference if we would cover our travel and stay.  Madelon, myself and our colleague Maryam Brown started meeting regularly to make our plan. We were determined to guerilla market “Cuddlist: The Therapeutic Approach to Touch” to the therapy world.  Cuddlist, a 3.5 year old company, has seen an uptick in referrals from therapist in recent months. It felt like a great time to chase some more therapists referrals!

I could talk about how our work felt welcomed by every contact we made.  I could talk about how I feel even more sure I’m doing the work I was meant to do in this life.  I could talk about the surrogate partner I met that made my sex-geek heart happy (I happen to currently be in surrogate partner therapy training).  I could share how I feel very drawn to work with people in recovery from addiction after learning about harm reduction therapy from Andrew Tatarksy.  I could talk about how much I’m drawn to try psychedelics in my own healing journey after sitting in on a talk with Gabor Mate and maybe even how my work could help in integration.  Or maybe how affirming it was to hear Sue Johnson talk about attachment and all the ways that plays into my work and my life. Or how I made a list for my own therapist while I listened to Janina Fisher talk about how we can’t make our clients “go deep”, that clients don’t walk in wanting to go deep.  (I totally want to go deep and I want that explained to me by my therapist… and it woke me to the fact that I’m odd that way and that my clients also don’t come looking for that. She reminded us that we have to help people feel better before we can ask them to feel worse.) If I could give one liners for my takeaways, those would be it!

What I really want to talk about is community.  We heal in relationship, that I know listening to Stan Tatkin. Relationships can look all kinds. We have our romantic relationship, our friends, our workmates, our doctors and therapists, our family, our dogs.  You see where I’m going. We have a LOT of relationships in our lives. Not all of those relationships allow you to show up completely authentic, feeling securely attached.

I work with amazing people!  Because of the work we do, creating a space for true authenticity and secure attachment, of course there was sharing and healing that happened over the course of Thursday thru Monday while I was in DC.  I came away experiencing the safety of saying something I thought would be really hard to say to Madelon, as an example. I shared, after taking a split second to think if it was safe, that I find it an incredible gift that I can ask questions about my sessions with her, with her amazing experience but that (and this was the hard part for me) it’s incredibly difficult and intimidating.  That I feel that I don’t have nearly as much experience, even with 3.5 years in this work, as I wish I did and that I feel like others think I have, especially her. And that when I go to her and pose a question, that I’m scared that she will be disappointed that I’m not already doing it “right”. That it would be so much easier to take my questions and need to brainstorm to a practitioner with more equal experience.  And then I just cried. Not the soft tears that fall down my face now as I write this. I cried a big cry of release and I said, “I worry I’m not good enough.” Those words were in there very deep and words I don’t know that I’ve ever consciously thought about regarding my work. (and now I’ll go blow my nose) She just sat there and looked at me with love.

I met Madelon 3.5 years ago when she first co-founded Cuddlist.  I was living in West Michigan and she was offering a free training in Chicago.  I drove in the winter snow to attend. I knew I could do the work. I didn’t know how much the work would grow me.  I grew into the woman I am today. I healed the effects of an unhealthy marriage. I built secure attachment in my life for the first time.  Madelon has been with me through it all.

I could end there and it would be enough but I’ll add that I also bonded hard with Maryam, our third housemate for our stay.  I also made incredible connections with Don and B, two practitioners that came into DC to help with our Cuddlist Salon, a hotel room we hosted to be able to demonstrate our work to interested attendees of the conference and community.

We did it!  We introduced our work to the therapy world.  We affirmed for ourselves that we belong in the therapy world and we can’t wait to be back next year!  Watch for Cuddlist at #PNS2020!

Learn more about Michelle Renee at

Learn more about how therapist can work with a Cuddlist practitioner at

Repost from Michelle’s Blog at