When you’re cuddling, are you the big spoon or the small spoon?
For London, Ont., native Daniel Oudshoorn, he doesn’t have a favourite.
“I honestly don’t have much of a preference. I’ve probably been the big spoon more than the little spoon,” Oudshoorn says while laughing. “I’m all about finding out how the person likes to be held.”
Oudshoorn is a professional snuggler, part of the growing snuggle therapy business. His latest business venture, London Snuggle Therapy, is one of many across the world, although it’s the first of its kind for the Forest City. Sessions begin at $80 for an hour of cuddling.
Snuggle therapy is the act of using human contact as a therapeutic experience.
“Across the board, we all benefit health-wise,” Oudshoorn says. “It boosts our oxytocin and our serotonin.... There are certain populations that researchers flag where [touch therapy] tends to be really effective ... populations of people who are particularly touch deprived.”
Oudshoorn prefers not to disclose his other job, although he states he has worked and continues to work with a variety of at-risk groups, including street involved youth, gang members, homeless people and people in sex work.
It’s the result of these experiences where Oudshoorn says he realized the limitations of his work, the power of loneliness and using touch as a healing measure.
“There’s this overwhelming loneliness people often feel and it’s this loneliness that often brings people back to the things that are destroying them,” Oudshoorn says. “As a worker, I could get anybody housed if I spent enough time, help anybody find work or find assistance for finances. But if somebody gets out there again and gets popped in a place where they’re feeling so alone, they end up going back to drugs, other destructive relationships or abusive partners.”
As a result of this revelation, Oudshoorn began researching the effects of touch therapy.
He says he noticed the powerful effect of touch when he would hug his children after they scraped their knees.
“I learned that I could hold them and they felt better,” says the father of two. “I think we’re the same as [children], except our pain is on the inside.”
As a professional snuggler, Oudshoorn sets very clear guidelines for his clients. Snuggle sessions are not at all sexual in nature. There are dress codes both parties are expected to adhere to and Oudshoorn has a consultation with all clients prior to ensure that both parties are comfortable moving forward.
He also maintains he is not a therapist and is not able to diagnose patients; however, many clients experience an emotional journey.
“There often can be a really emotional response. People can cry,” he says. “Often I think people are carrying around this longing inside of themselves and they don’t realize how deep it is or how much it cuts to the core of their heart until someone just holds them for a little while and things come out.”
While these therapy sessions are intimate, those closest to Oudshoorn understand the nature of his job. His partner is supportive, according to Oudshoorn.
Many people have reached out to Oudshoorn looking for work, much to his surprise, but he says he’s going to hold off on employing anyone for a while.
For now, he’s working to make the world a kinder place and hopes other Londoners will follow suit.
“I would like people to be a little bit more kind and a little bit more gentle with one another,” he says. “I think a lot of people are walking around with hurts that they never share with one another — not even their friends, and that’s sad and hard to bear.”
Whether it’s a small gesture or being the small spoon, a little love can go a long way.