Of Course This Dude is a Professional Cuddle Therapist

May 13 at 10am

By Emma McGowan

You may have spotted Travis Sigley, cuddle therapist, around town. He’s the handsome guy with long hair topped by a sparkly sequined purple and silver fedora. He may be wearing purple pajama pants with a matching fanny pack, but there’s one thing he won’t be wearing: a shirt.

That’s because Travis hasn’t worn a shirt in over six years, not even during the winter he spent in France. He shed any upper-body covering right around the time he quit his job doing quality insurance for a home security company in Palo Alto and moved to San Francisco to study music. When I asked him about it, he told me that the “daily dedication to something that’s ultimately opening up to the world around me” was part of his spiritual process.

These days, Travis makes his living through one-on-one cuddle therapy sessions (which cost $75 a pop), setting up cuddle parties at events, co-running a tea company that does pop-up Chinese tea ceremonies, and performing both as a dancer and a musician. He isn't officially licensed, as there isn't a certificate for cuddle therapy, but he told me he studied psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

I first met Travis on my front stoop in the Lower Haight, when he stopped by with a friend, fresh off The Playa. When my roommate told me the next day that he was a professional cuddler, my brain almost exploded. Professional cuddler? What the hell is that? I had to find out more.

Travis sees cuddle therapy as an antidote to that disconnection, a chance for people to be intimate in a variety of ways. The first one-on-one-session starts with tea and chatting, followed by a breathing exercise to relax the client. Then Travis and the client will lie down together and cuddle for the remainder of the session. 

I must admit that I was skeptical about the whole thing when I showed up a few days later at the (purple, obviously) Victorian he was living in at the time. While I like to think of myself as on the “counter” side of culture, the whole thing was a little too touchy-feely for me to wrap my head around. Non-sexual cuddling and shirtlessness as spirituality was a bit further out there than even I’m used to going.

Travis, however, has a sincerity about him that puts you immediately at ease; a quality that I’m sure is essential when he’s working with clients. When I asked him why he thought we had gotten to a place where people need cuddle therapy, Travis pointed to technology.

“We’ve gotten to a false idea about what connection is,” he explained. “The different technologies we have and what we use them for is immense as far as scalability and profitability of the internet, which is infinitely connected. We spend too much time connecting to something like that versus connecting to each other.”

Travis sees cuddle therapy as an antidote to that disconnection, a chance for people to be intimate in a variety of ways. The first one-on-one-session starts with tea and chatting, followed by a breathing exercise to relax the client. Then Travis and the client will lie down together and cuddle for the remainder of the session. 

Group workshops on intimacy that end in cuddle parties are another service Travis provides. The two-hour sessions involve holding eye contact and "touch intimacy." Following the exercise, the group talks about the experience and then Travis places them in a “big puddle cuddle.” 

It’s hard to argue with the assertion that we are not connecting with each other enough as a society. Especially in a city where so many of us work in technology, it’s all too easy to stop being truly intimate even with the people we are closest with. While Travis’ form of therapy may not be for everyone, I came away from our tea ceremony convinced that what he is doing is a valuable service.

We could all use a bit more cuddling.

Photo by Garry Bowden of Souls of San Francisco

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