With the controversial Snuggle House slated to open its doors in Madison in the near future, health professionals are questioning how effective snuggling is as a therapy for its clients.
According to the Snuggle House’s website, the business will provide customers with an hour of snuggling in a bed for $60. The snuggling, which is done with professional “snugglers” on staff, is billed as a therapeutic stress reliever for clients.
The website also says the Snuggle House provides “an exciting opportunity to receive the benefits of touch therapy in a non-sexual way and feel ‘connected’ in a disconnected, digital world.”
However, Bruce Wampold, a University of Wisconsin clinical psychiatry professor, said he believes the theory of touch therapy lacks the evidence to claim it truly works.
“I think this is a case of taking some basic science and going way beyond what is known,” Wampold said. “Touch, especially by a significant other, can have a soothing effect, but that is a long way from saying that a snuggle house offers anything of therapeutic value.”
Although the idea of touch therapy is proving controversial, staff member Lonnie Johnson said in an interview on the site the snuggling provides stress relief and comfort.
“This is place where people can come and feel safe and really get charged up with some positive, loving energy,” Johnson said in the video.
The Snuggle House also aims to be an outlet for those who may be struggling with personal issues, Johnson said, and the business was made to “share love with people who may not have as much of it in their lives.”
Robert McGrath, University Health Services wellness coordinator, agreed with Wampold, adding although hugging and snuggling is psychologically beneficial, he is skeptical of the legitimacy of the Snuggle House’s services.
“I’m not aware of any data that says a 60-minute hug is any more helpful than a five-second hug with someone you know,” McGrath said. “A meaningful hug will most likely provide a more relaxing and positive experience than a random one.”
He added although snuggling with a stranger could be potentially beneficial for some individuals, the $60 dollar hourly rate could discourage people from trying the service, especially without legitimate data to back up the business’ claims.
McGrath also questioned how the Snuggle House staff was trained to become “professional snugglers,” since other forms of therapeutic services, such as massage therapy, require structured training.
“Are they trained? Or are they just open to giving people a hug?” McGrath said.
The Snuggle House is located on the second floor of 123 E. Main St. The official opening date has not yet been announced.