By Michelle Renee, San Diego Cuddlist Certified Practitioner and Director of Cuddlist Care
Please note: I have the consent of my client to share about our work together, though I will not be sharing much detail, it was still important for me to have their consent.
As a Cuddlist Certified Touch Practitioner, one of the pillars of our agreements with our clients is that it is THEIR session. As the practitioner, I am there to hold space and share an authentic experience with my clients. I am not there to prescribe. I never know what a session will look like as I am focused on meeting my client where they are, not running them through a preset series of exercises.
Two months ago I got a request for a session a bit different than most. He didn’t seek cuddling, he was looking for eye gazing practice. He has PTSD and sees a trauma therapist for EMDR. His therapist knows he sees me.
Over the last two months, we’ve moved at his pace. Every once in a while I will offer an invitation to push his edges in very small ways. It generally looks like, “What would it feel like if we sat a little closer?” Or, “How would it feel if I were to touch my foot against your foot?” Generally it’s the last increment of eye gazing of the session. (We’ve worked up to 10 minute increments within a 1 hour session.) Today I questioned what might be different if we experimented with shorter increments again. I’m working from intuition. I don’t have a reference manual for how this “should” look.
During a break between eye gazing, he walked in front of a stack of books in my office. He noticed my newly delivered copy of Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana. I shared that I thought there might be some good exercises in there to practice with my clients around touch and their nervous systems. He shared that he thinks he may have had a massage therapist offer something similar once. He didn’t really care for the experience because when she touched him she required him to go inside and notice what he feels. He didn’t want to go inside. It’s not safe in there for him. He said he would fake it and just focus on the care he was feeling from her.
Ah ha! Yes! He was needing safe connection. The practitioner’s exercise wasn’t a good fit for him. It didn’t align with his needs.
That’s the beauty of a Cuddlist session. It’s purposefully not led by me. It purposefully led by my client. We establish right from the get-go that if either one of us is uncomfortable, we promise ourselves and the other that we will speak up or change something. Our goal is for authentic connection and that can’t happen if either one of us isn’t fully on board.
Over the last 2 months of working together, my client has grown to trust me. I’ve shown him in all the important small ways that I’m safe. My office is our laboratory where we can experiment and no one will have hurt feelings if we decided to change our minds and try something else. I understand that what may be a supportive experience for him may not be for the next client. What one client needs is definitely not what the next client needs.
I work with clients with all sorts of backgrounds, education, experiences, cultures, needs and wants. I don’t offer one type of experience. I meet them where they are and we work to see if there is a way we can collaborate to make it all come together. I’m not “just a cuddler”, I’m an emotional support human, much like a therapist, but I can offer a multitude of experiences that can include touch but doesn’t have to. When therapist and body practitioner can join forces, I believe we can make HUGE progress.
Client led sessions give clients a way to feel empowered, confident, seen and heard. The laboratory of a session is a safe place to practice communicating boundaries, asking for what you need, and feel safe attachment. You can learn more about working with a practitioner like me in your area by going to Cuddlist.com/for-therapists.
Learn more about Michelle Renee at Cuddlist.com/Michelle
Learn more about how therapist can work with a Cuddlist practitioner at https://cuddlist.com/for-therapists/
Repost from Michelle’s Blog at CuddleSanDiego.com