The new and surprising trend of hiring another person to be your platonic friend for the evening is becoming increasingly popular in America. Some call these “snuggle buddies” a form of therapy while others claim that just being physically close to another person is simply a relaxing, pleasurable experience. In either case, hiring a close confidant for the evening can be beneficial to both the mind and the body.

When a client hires a “snuggle buddy,” he or she is treated purely platonically throughout the session. The buddy will either come to a client’s home, invite a client into their own living space or meet them at a cuddling services store location in an individualized cuddling room. Individuals can either go online or visit a snuggle buddy store and choose which particular cuddler they would prefer for their session. The majority of businesses allow the customers to pick between a male or a female cuddler, and pictures are usually included in a cuddler’s online profile.

For the professional cuddling service Snuggle Buddies, a client may pay for the cuddler to snuggle with them, have a conversation, give a friendly massage or go on a platonic outside date to dinner. Any platonic activity one might do with a friend can be done with a snuggle buddy, and platonic sleepovers and phone calls are also offered.

Another similar company, Cuddle Up To Me, allows its clients to come into a store where the service will take place. These services alone have been able to reach more than 47 million people from around the world so far. The owner, Samantha Hess, started Cuddle Up To Me “after realizing how debilitating the lack of touch in my own life was,” as stated on the Cuddle Up To Me company website.

This new type of therapy is beneficial to a multitude of people. Humans are social creatures and thrive on physical touch, and when this need is met appropriately and respectfully, people are happier and satisfied with themselves. According to a 2014 article from Livestrong entitled “Importance of Human Touch,” “...human touch has wide-ranging physical and emotional benefits for people of all age groups.”

A 2012 article from Psychology Today titled “Why Have We Lost the Need for Physical Touch?” states the need for physical contact is present at birth, and animals who grow up without the physical presence of a parent develop severe social setbacks. This explains why so much comfort is brought on by a simple gesture, like holding a hand or receiving a hug.

There is also substantial research supported by many different studies over the past few years that indicate physical touch releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin into the brain, which help fight depression and heighten mood. When skin-to-skin contact occurs, our adrenal glands also cut back on cortisol production, which is known as the stress hormone.

Some people may see hiring professional cuddlers as perverted or as a soft form of prostitution, but this is not the case. As long as professional cuddling is handled platonically and responsibly, it should be treated with the same respect as massage therapy and other touch-oriented professions.

The power of touch is remarkable—to test this, simply recall the last time you were upset and someone gave you a hug. Not everyone has the luxury of being comforted by another individual, which is why professional cuddling can be helpful to all types of people.