MCC 670 – objective vs subjective

​Ingram, (2012) provides a clear differentiation between subjective and objective data in the following statement: “What the client tells you goes in [Subjective Data}…how the client tells it goes in [Objective Data]” (p. 83). In other words, the subjective section contains information pertaining to the client’s own story (Ingram, 2012, p7). In contrast objective data refers to observations noted in how a client tells their story. For example, in the subjective data section, it is critical to exclude a therapist’s observations and theoretical formulations. Additionally, in the objective data section, information pertaining to a client’s own personal interpretations and verbal reports should be excluded.

The Importance of This Distinction

​Ingram (2012) states that it is essential to provide a separate section for objective and subjective data in order to clearly differentiate the information’s source. The purpose of the subjective data is to provide a place where the client’s own story can be told (Ingram, 2012). For this reason, it contains information from the client and the client’s family. It excludes clinical observations and hypothetical case formulations. In contrast, objective data includes information pertain to clinical observations, including tests, medical records or “therapist’s observations” (Ingram, 2012, p6). It excludes case formulations and information pertaining to the either the client or family members’ verbal reports (Ingram, 2012).

Examples of Objective vs. Subjective.

​The best examples I provided for this assignment come from the Practicum Course for this program. Those of you, who have completed it, are aware that we are to complete a series of 10 recordings of simulated therapy sessions. Since my recording partner backed out, I had to find somebody at the last minute. My recording partner was a fellow student from the Group Therapy course. For these recordings, she created a hypothetical client by the name of “Jessica”. The storyline that unfolded as a result of this process is also purely “hypothetical”. What follows are excerpts from these assignments.


Jessica states that her husband is very displeased with all recent changes that have occurred since she entered therapy and has become increasingly abusive. Apparently, she got into an altercation with her husband after an argument. She expresses great frustration with the entire therapeutic process and is disinterested in continuing. She openly acknowledges at this point that her only reason for being here is because her employer requires it as a condition of her employment. Currently she attributes her husband’s abusive behavior to a “bunch of crazy hopes”, and blames the therapist and support group for the recent events that have inspired. She feels very hopelessness regarding her situation and openly discusses suicidal thoughts. Although she has no plan at this time she will not enter a contract for safety but is willing to call me nightly.


Jessica presents today in a state of extreme state of distress, crying uncontrollably at the beginning of our session today. She appears with sunglasses that cover two black eyes and her appearance is very disheveled. Jessica openly expresses suicidal thoughts throughout the session although no plan currently is in place. Speech is reflective of a very emotionally labile state. She is very hopelessness regarding her current life situation. Affect appears consistent with overall mood. Insight and judgment are very limited during this session. They are reflective of heightened emotions and a feeling of extreme hopelessness. Ability to control impulses is very poor in light of Jessica’s events.”


I’d like to add that the above examples are my own recent “best attempt” at differentiating between objective and subjective data and I’m very open to criticism (?). As you can see, my recording partner threw a couple of “curve balls” at me, and presented me with a very extreme hypothetical scenario. It was indeed challenging and very educational from an ethical standpoint.


Ingram, B.L. (2012). Clinical Case Formulations: Matching the Integrative Treatment
​Plan to the Client. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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