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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

Story Time: What's In A (Pet) Name?

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

When I began my massage therapy training with Blue Cliff College in the fall of 2013, I had a class called, "Therapeutic Communications".

"T. Comm." or "T.C." was focused primarily on how to document session notes, but also touched on how to talk to public clients and with other healthcare providers and alternative support systems.

The instructor for T. Comm. (and if you attended Blue Cliff around the same time, you may easily deduce their identity) was a stern seasoned therapist from the east coast. I was a southern, Queer kid (not even old enough to drink!), struggling to adjust my expectations of massage school to reconcile with the reality of it.

It must have been the first week of classes, and our first T. Comm. lesson. I was excited to be starting my massage education, albeit a little bummed out about anatomy and documentation.

As class ended, the instructor verbally assigned homework from our textbook that wasn't written on the board. I scrambled to write the assignment down on paper, but didn't catch the whole thing. Focused on finding scrap paper and writing down what I could remember, I asked the instructor to repeat themself. "What are those page numbers again, honey?"

"What did you just say?" I felt an energy shift as the tone switched from casual to serious and cold.

I had no idea what they meant. I mentally stumbled back through the last couple of minutes of the class events.

Before I could figure out the question or form my own question for clarity, the instructor continued, "Did you just call me 'hon'?" Yes, I suppose I probably had! I tried to mumble out an explanation that I'd called everyone "hon" or "honey" for about the past decade and that I certainly didn't mean to offend.

They corrected me, "My name is _________, not "honey."

I mumbled an acceptance as I felt my face glow red with embarrassment. This was the first week of classes and I was being called out in front of all my classmates!


We were dismissed shortly after and by the time I was out of sight, I was so upset that I was in tears! My girlfriends tried to help console and calm me down as I tried to defend myself to them (since the instructor didn't seem interested in hearing my explanation). I'm pretty sure I cussed the teacher out...


I didn't know it then, but that strict reprimanding was one of the greatest lessons I could have received in the first week of my massage career. It taught me to be very careful about how I address clients and to avoid becoming overly familiar with them.


Peace & Healing,

Kirby Clark, MMT

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