Therapy trend: cuddling

Ohio residents have a chance to meet refreshing new people and put their cuddling experiences to use in Columbus.

On July 13, Kristen Kaufman will lead a structured, safe workshop on boundaries, communication, intimacy and affection entitled “Cuddle Party.”

According to its’ Web site, Cuddle Party is a drug and alcohol-free way to meet fascinating people in a relaxing environment, which was started by Marcia Baczynski and Reid Mihalko.

A new addition to Cuddle Party is facilitator training. Facilitator training is where Mihalko and Baczynski work with interested people and train them using proper communication skills in order for them to run their own Cuddle Parties in their area.

Kaufman heard about Cuddle Party on the radio and went to New York shortly after to meet Baczynski and Mihalko. She wanted to start Cuddle Party up in her hometown of Columbus so she trained for six months and returned home as a certified Cuddle Party facilitator.

“I did a session in Cincinnati recently because they have begun to show great interest in Cuddle Party,” said Kaufman. “Any group of people interested can contact us and we will go there to facilitate a session with them.”

Cuddle Party taking place in Northwest Ohio is not out of the question but simply depends on the response from residents in the area.

What started off as an experiment for their friends turned into a successful business for the duo. Mihalko and Baczynski are from New York City, but they try to get to workshops around the United States when they can.

Marcia Baczynski, co-creator of Cuddle Party is pleased with the responses that they have received.

“I don’t think this business would have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for the positive response from the first group we had,” Baczynski said.

Since early 2004 this playful workshop has been a place for people to rediscover non-sexual touch and affection and a space to reframe assumptions about men and women according to the Web site.

The Cuddle Parties usually last three and a half hours and include between 10 and 20 participants.

The first hour is called a welcome circle and it is a workshop for the people involved. The facilitator goes over the rules and boundaries and ways in which to communicate yes and no to other participants.

The remaining two and a half hours is where the participants get a chance to put what they were taught to use said Baczynski.

Accounting Representative Amber Orahood has attended three Cuddle Parties in the last couple of months. She said each one has been a great experience that has helped expand her communication skills.

“When I leave Cuddle Party, I feel like I know the others that were there,” Orahood said. “For me, I was nervous when I went to the first one, but the welcome circle lays it all out and helps you feel comfortable.”

The main rules of Cuddle Party are dressing comfortably in pajamas, groping is prohibited and asking permission to cuddle is necessary.

According to Baczynski the misconception around this event is that it is nothing but cuddling when in fact it is simply an opportunity to learn more about your inner self while in a safe atmosphere.

“Some people refer to the Cuddle Party as a dance party for lazy people,” she said.

Baczynski is a sex and relationship coordinator where she teaches people how to communicate effectively what they want from a relationship.

She said men get a lot out of the experience, but women tend to receive better benefits because of how society has continued to shut down women emotionally. Cuddle Party gives some women a chance to feel comfortable being touched again after a traumatic experience such as abuse or rape.

Baczynski said some counselors actually advise their female patients to attend a Cuddle Party in order to feel comfortable around men again.

Also, she said that Cuddle Party has proven to reduce the stress hormone and in turn some soldiers have come in to learn to relax again after being away in a very stressful atmosphere.

“The Cuddle Party is not therapy, but it comes with a lot of benefits for the participants,” Baczynski said.