The pandemic has likely left several of us craving human interaction - and one woman has managed to cash in on the human need for a hug.
Keeley Shoup, 33, has made a career out of being a professional cuddler. The Chicago woman offers physical comfort to her customers who may have suffered trauma or abuse, or uses a hug as a tool to combat loneliness and anxiety.
She charges up to $200 (NZ$300) per hour for her services.
The Sun reports she has also received rather strange requests from her clients.
Shoup explained what she provides to her customers.
"Cuddle therapists are professional counsellors that give access to platonic touch through boundaries of consent education for the purposes of comfort, validation and alleviating loneliness," she explained in an interview with The Sun.
"We give access to platonic touch, but that doesn't mean it's mandated or expected. It's just the access to it.
"I have lots of clients who are working through various stages of grief or trauma and actually touching isn't something that we can do for quite a while until we work together for a long time," Shoup said.
She made it clear in her interview that her services are strictly platonic and non-sexual. She thoroughly screens any customers to confirm their needs from the service to weed out any potential discrepancies.
"In those calls, we have a really frank conversation about it, where we lay out the rules and a client can then decide whether or not this is what they want," she told The Sun.
"Because what I tell people in the screening calls is: 'If what you're looking for doesn't match the things that I'm saying. You are going to be categorically disappointed when you get here because this will not change and you'll have wasted time and money.'"
She added there is "nothing wrong" with clients seeking sexual services, but she doesn't want to set up customers for disappointment.
She says she has had special requests from clients in the past, including one who was seeking "age regression work". They wanted Shoup to pretend they were a child.
But she welcomed the client's request.
"All it means is that someone wants to get in touch with the younger version of themselves – and we all have one inside of us.
"It's just about giving them a space where they can feel really cared about or valued, and play in a way that feels how we played when we were young."
Shoup said her business has doubled since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
"Many people who wouldn't have necessarily had a reason to find themselves in isolation have now experienced it – even those who, before the pandemic, had robust support networks, such as large friend groups and family living nearby.
"It has become a shared experience, so it's no longer weird to talk about feeling isolated – it's no longer a measure of you or your skills at being social."