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September 28, 2018

Here's why Delco's cuddle therapist is happy to hug you

Dr. Susan Kaye says she's helped many clients overcome life traumas with the simple treatment of human touch

Lifestyle Therapy
Dr. Susan Kaye Courtesy of Dr. Susan Kaye/for PhillyVoice

Dr. Susan Kaye

“Do we all ever get enough cuddling?” asks Dr. Susan Kaye

Kaye is a sexologist and sexuality educator who sees clients at the Wayne Counseling Center. Her approach to well-being focuses on a combination of what she refers to as “neck up” and “neck down” work. This unique combination of mind and body integration often times involves massage, breathwork and cuddle therapists.

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For Kaye, cuddling is serious business. 

“Being nurtured and held at a young age sets us up for a different kind of security and self confidence,” she explains. 

“A lot of clients that show up here are really lacking that connection. There’s usually a breakdown of nurturing in the family, so people are disconnected from being able to relax and be deep and feel nurtured in their bodies.”

While Kaye does specialize in sex education and therapy, the cuddling sessions that she prescribes are very much platonic. The end game is for the client to feel comfortable within themselves, especially when they might not have had the most nurturing of upbringings.

Upon meeting with a new client, Kaye asks a series of telling questions:

- For the first five years, where were you raised? 

- Who raised you? 

- Did you feel loved and nurtured? 

- Did you feel that the people who were raising you loved each other, and nurtured each other? 

- And did they love and take care of you?

Kaye explains that during the first five years of life, children’s understanding of the world come less through cognition than through their senses, and, in turn, sensuality. By asking these questions, Kaye gets to know what was missing during those early years, in her clients physical selves.

Her cuddling sessions last around 90 minutes, and during that time, clients (clothed, of course) are asked to share what they’re feeling in the moment, the sensations that they’re noticing.

Kaye trains therapists to collaborate with body workers to help clients. She feels that bringing together the mind and body is the best way to work through issues and improve lives.

“We have memories and we have trauma,” she says. 

“There’s a disconnect that you sometimes do not get to sitting across a desk and talking about it.”

This physical and mental approach to therapy is all about patients awakening to their bodies. Kaye says that often times this leads to positive lifestyle changes. Clients will start eating better, exercising, and perhaps make a long overdue visit for a check-up. This shift in lifestyle could go as far as someone from Kaye’s office taking a client shopping for new clothes or helping with a bit of interior design work.

There’s a disconnect that you sometimes do not get to sitting across a desk and talking about it.”

“She created the environment where I was able to save my life,” says Jen, a patient of Kaye’s. 

With a stagnating marriage, Jen was unable to broach the topic of divorce due to her religious background. She left as though she had to leave her religion to leave her marriage, and asked only to be identified by her first name for purposes of this story. 

Using a combination of therapies including mediation, chakra and energy work and cuddle, Jen equates her cuddle session to a sleepover, a time before sexualization comes into play. 

“It’s almost like petting a dog,” she explains. 

The safe and positive touching that happens in a cuddle session boosts oxytocin, a hormone that’s intrinsic in social bonding.

“Something about the touch was so impactful for me," she said. 

During the course of her treatment, Jen was able to break negative habits, like emotional eating and smoking, and began to find herself, both physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Kaye talks a lot about "neck up" and "neck down," her phases for the mental and physical aspects of being, and for Kaye, living from the neck down is what cuddle therapy is all about – easing into that positive connection.