VIP Interview – Nellie Wilson A Professional Cuddlist!

We are pleased to introduce Nellie Wilson a professional Cuddlist to the Adultsmart community blog.  A Cuddlist offers therapeutic benefits to individuals that need the healing power of platonic touch. 

Welcome Nellie, how did you first get into cuddling?

I grew up in a fairly physically affectionate family so I think I’ve always been into cuddling. I found out about Cuddle Parties, a social cuddling event and workshop about boundaries and consent, and started going to them years ago. I really enjoyed the safety and connection of those events and am now a certified Cuddle Party facilitator. I found out about professional cuddling, specifically Cuddlist, through a friend and realized that I knew the co-founder, Madelon Guinazzo. She and I had attended a workshop in 2010, Foundations of Facilitation, which is part of the Cuddle Party Facilitator certification program. I was at a point in my life where I wanted to get back into doing body-based meaningful work that really helped people and what Cuddlist offered was a great fit for me. I’ve been a Cuddlist for about a year now.

Being a Cuddlist would take a great deal of compassion and empathy for others.  Where did you gain these traits?

My grandmother was one of the biggest influences in my early life that really taught me about empathy and compassion. She had such a big heart and welcomed people into her home, and our family, who others in the community wouldn’t have. She was a good listener. She was there for me, and others, when we were in need. I’ve cultivated both of those traits in myself as well as having other people who shared and guided me in being skilled in true compassion and empathy – both of which I believe are learned traits.

Many people would not be aware that being a Cuddlist is a recognized occupation with many courses designed to develop this therapy.  Can you run us through how you became a Cuddlist and what someone would have to do to be qualified?

Cuddlist has a rigorous screening and approval process for its practitioners. There is an application process to be accepted into the training. You then complete online coursework, are paired with a mentor, and have to complete an in-person practical evaluation with a certified Cuddlist who is trained to do approval sessions. After the approval session, there is a final evaluation with Director of Training before receiving certification.

After certification, Cuddlist provides ongoing weekly and monthly support for marketing, peer support, and professional development.

Human touch is so important to the development of human beings.  From birth through till death, in good times or bad, nothing beats a cuddle to share joy, sadness, empathy and closeness.  Do you prefer to receive of give cuddles?

As a professional cuddler, I am in a position of giving in sessions with my clients, even if it might look like “receiving” from an outside perspective. In my personal life, I enjoy both giving and receiving. I like to share caring touch with those I love and sometimes I need to be held and cared for. The real key to good cuddling is good communication — being able to ask for what you want and need and hear if the other person is a yes or no, and being able to negotiate to find a mutual yes.

At Adultsmart we are strong advocates for human rights.  Some of our passions are the right to sexual freedom and expression and the rights for people with disabilities.  How does cuddling help these groups of people?

Cuddlists address the basic human need for touch and connection. We work with all genders, races, sizes, sexual orientations, and abilities. Everyone deserves to feel nurtured and cared for. People in marginalized and minority communities can often experience isolation for many different reasons so can be particularly vulnerable to having lack of good touch in their lives. My work helps people to be able to meet these needs in a way that is empowering to them. I believe every person I see is a whole person with agency and rights to their bodily autonomy. I strive to make sessions a safe space for people to be able to be comfortable and self-expressed without shame.

The cuddlist dot com

Do you offer specific cuddling sessions for people with disabilities and how do they differ from standard cuddling techniques?

Yes. Depending on the disability, I offer home visits for people who cannot come to my office due to mobility issues or chronic illness that prevents them from traveling. There aren’t any

“standard cuddling techniques”

that I use. I work with each client to find ways to provide them with the physical contact that they would like, which sometimes involves getting a bit creative. If there is a position that they or myself are not comfortable doing, we find something else that works for both of us.

Cuddling parties are happening around the world.  What can you tell us about these?

I’m a certified Cuddle Party Facilitator as well as a Cuddlist.

“Cuddle Party is a playful social event designed for adults to explore communication, boundaries and affection.”

The event starts off with a workshop that covers the ‘rules of cuddling’ which goes over communication skills on how to ask for what you want, practice saying yes and no, and listening openly to people’s answers to your requests. After the workshop part of the event, people are welcomed to explore cuddling with each other and practice the kind of detailed asking that we do in the workshop.

Cuddle Parties are a great place to connect with others who are interested in practicing active consent, sharing physical affection, and being playful. It can also be a space to practice saying no and feel how empowering that can be.

To find out more about these events and see where Cuddle Parties are happening in your area check out:

Cuddle Parties Website

Hypothetical – I am a newbie who has contacted you for a cuddling session.  Can you run us through the procedure prior to a cuddling session?

Once I receive your request for a session, I contact you to set up a phone conversation where you can ask any questions you have and I go over what you can expect out of the first session. I have clients fill out a waiver agreement that spells out what Cuddlist is and is not (aka. I’m not a psychotherapist or doctor so I don’t diagnose or treat people for conditions). We talk about payment and go over some basics about boundaries and the Cuddlist code of conduct. The first session is designed for us to get to know each other. The session is client lead, which means that I support them in speaking up for what they want and discovering what that might be if they don’t know.

Other Cuddlist may have somewhat different client screening processes but we all take time to talk with prospective clients to make sure that we are a good match before having a session. If I feel that a fellow Cuddlist might be better suited to work with someone, I will offer a referral and they do the same.

Platonic cuddling has been known to help people that have suffered trauma and/or loss. How do you personally cope with their grief?

I have found that having my own support, with a therapist and through peer-support with other certified Cuddlists, is really important in being able to process and move through any emotions that might come up in response to a client sharing their experience with me in session. In sessions, I feel that I am channeling a sense of compassion and love for my clients that is larger than myself. Being in this state of openhearted flow helps me to hold space for any emotions shared by my clients. Grief, anger, confusion, numbness, feeling ashamed, sadness, etc. are all natural responses to trauma and loss and its important to be able to express emotions in a safe confidential space, which is what I provide.

When someone has chronic illness and may have few family or friends, cuddling may form an important part of the transition.  Do you participate in these types of sessions?

I’m not sure I fully understand the question however – I work with clients who have chronic illnesses. I myself have a chronic illness and know how isolating it can be to have a chronic condition that limits your ability to participate in life and activities. Caring touch can be a big support for people who are chronically ill as well as for those with disabilities. My personal experience with chronic illness is part of what drives me to do this work and make it as accessible as I can for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to be able to receive this kind of care.

You hold workshops on cuddling.  Can you tell us a bit more about this and to participate?

See Cuddle Party info.

I offer Cuddle Parties and workshops on consent and communication in the Northampton Massachusetts area. You can find out more about workshops at my or on my Facebook page –

Nellie Cuddles Workshops
Nellie Wilson Website

What do you do in your ‘down’ time?

When I’m not seeing clients or teaching workshops, I enjoy gardening, hiking, singing, and spending time with loved ones and friends.

You have a master’s degree in Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching.  How do you incorporate this to your cuddling sessions?

My background in integrative health and wellness coaching informs my Cuddlist work in being able to coach clients into getting clear about what they want out of a session, in sharing information about the mind-body science of the health benefits of cuddling, and offer resources for clients who want to work on other parts of their health and wellbeing outside of touch. I believe strongly in whole person care and I have a referral network of other health providers to share with clients that may need additional support.

Nellie Wilson – Certified Professional Cuddlist & Consent Educator
Offering Trust-Based Therapeutic Touch & Experiential Workshops

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