Professional cuddler Jean Franzblau faces a number of challenges in her growing industry. First off, she says her business solves a problem you may not even know you have.

“People don’t realize that they are touch deprived because it’s not something we talk about very often,” Franzblau said in an interview from her home office in Santa Monica. The second problem: cuddling’s connotation.

“It’s a very tricky business because the word cuddle is so confusing to people. Many people use the word cuddle to mean something they do before and after a sexual experience with someone they know very well. So the idea of being close to someone you don’t know is frightening to some people.”

But Franzblau claims if done correctly, that feeling of fear can transform into a feeling of bliss. It’s the reason she is expanding her business, Cuddle Sanctuary, to offer three-day workshops to train cuddling enthusiasts from all over the world. A pilot program brought cuddlers from nearby San Diego and far away Germany.

The cuddle trend – also known as plutonic touch therapy – has received sporadic media attention over the past few years. In 2015 there was even a “Cuddle Convention” in Portland, Oregon. A Buzzfeed video featuring Cuddle Sanctuary has racked up nearly 7 million views on YouTube.

“When you’re actually being held by a stranger it opens you up to a lot of truth,” remarks one of the participants in the video. Franzblau has also appeared on “the Insider,” ‘America with Jorge Ramos’ and TLC’s ‘My Secret Job.’

To Franzblau, cuddling is not about sex as much as it is about oxytocin, the hormone released during intercourse, when mothers breastfeed and during plutonic touching as well. The hormone is connected with positive feelings, bonding and socialization.

In a busy city like Los Angeles, it can be difficult for a single person living alone to experience oxytocin release without jumping into bed with someone (although, recent studies have shown staring into your dog’s eyes also releases oxytocin). The UCLA graduate has been offering cuddling sessions for strangers in Venice since 2014 in an effort to allow locals to get their oxytocin fix through human contact without having sex. The sessions are “Rated G” and involve hugging, spooning, holding hands and sharing compassion. A typical 60 minutes session costs $80.

“The most important component for safety is that there is no touch required ever,” Franzblau said, adding the “Love Dome” in Venice where she leads her sessions has a private area if someone needs to take a break and stresses people are allowed to leave at any time if they feel uncomfortable.

“At the end of these experiences people use words like happy, content, complete, relaxed, joyful and even blissful,” Franzblau said.

Even still, it’s easy to imagine how things can become awkward in a stranger to stranger cuddle party, which is why Franzblau is launching the new workshops in June to help train cuddlers who want to bring the service to their community. The Santa Monica businesswoman has learned a lot from her cuddles over the years she would like to pass on in the burgeoning industry.

Interested trainees and others who want to learn more about professional cuddling can reach out to Franzblau through her website,