We had the good fortune of connecting with Keeley Shoup and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Keeley, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Cuddle Therapy has remarkable capacity to change the world. Touch deprivation and loneliness are at epidemic levels according to the U.S. Surgeon General. This therapeutic modality is hugely effective in combating that by giving people access to platonic touch in a safe therapeutic environment. Touch produces oxytocin, which can have long term positive impact on a person’s sense of belonging and community. Cuddle therapy also positively impacts people’s mental health in a broad sense by changing the way we relate to others and ourselves. One of the very topical ways cuddle therapy impacts the world is by teaching comprehensive practices around consent. If we want to address the underlying societal issues that lead to the virality of the #metoo movement, this is one of the best ways to do that.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
When I started cuddling people professionally I had no idea that in order to succeed I’d have to become a full fledged entrepreneur. That growth frequently happened begrudgingly. I wanted to cuddle people to help them feel validated and loved, not figure out zoning laws and debate the benefits of being a sole proprietor vs and LLC. But the industry of professional cuddling is in its infancy and in order to succeed at it you not only have to be an entrepreneur, but also a pioneer. I’m really proud to say that I’ve taken every single training course offered in this field as well as an abundance of continuing education. I’ve taken my career from “professional cuddling” to helping create and define what a cuddle therapist is. There are maybe 5 other people in the world who have logged as many session hours as I have or who have been doing this full time for as long as I have. There are fewer who can say this is their full time career without requiring several other forms of income to make their living. The biggest key to that success is an annoying cliché. I allowed myself to fail or do things incorrectly or unconventionally. There is absolutely no road map for this profession. My colleagues and I are writing that map as we go step by step. And that means we get lost often. So we back track and plow forward again in a new direction until we get where we want to go. People who are uncomfortable with risk or uncertainty would not do well with it, I imagine.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love the Rogers Park beaches. I’d take a friend to a drive-in at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen. I’d go to wicker park for an amazing meal.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The organizations Cuddlist and Cuddle Party are almost entirely responsible for how I got started in this business and for supporting me throughout my career. It was the experiential workshop run by the nonprofit organization Cuddle Party that introduced me to the world of adult platonic touch. The education on boundaries and consent that I received from those events changed my whole life and made me want to do the same for others. Cuddlist was the first ever training program for cuddle therapy and they have supported me since their inception and the start of my private practice. Without their support and community I would have likely quit many times over.