2025 Health & Human Services (HHS) Grants

Recent Research

What to expect from this page

This is your one stop resource for all information necessary to complete your grant proposals for the PICK a Partner (aka How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk(ette)),  Couple LINKS and/or the Home Runs (dads, parents, and families) programs. All of these programs are (1) based on psychological, social, and family research and theory and (2) have been evalutated with both program participants and instructors. 

On this page you will find research conducted on the PICK a Partner (aka How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk(ette)) Couple LINKS program and Home Runs programs (family version, fatherhood version, parent version), instructor evaluations and sample survey instruments. 

Our evidence-based and theoretically grounded curricula meet the grant requirements for most of the 8 Healthy Marriage Promotion Activities (CRA authorized activities, see the chart to the right). They have optional 5- or 10-lesson versions and are taught over 12+ hours (and up to 24 hours with supplements).

Virtual Trainings and Resources

In addition to in-person certification trainings, we are also currently offering virtual instructor trainings to help reduce the cost of certifiying instructors. To view the current schedule of trainings please visit our Virtual Offerings page.

Additionally, we have online versions of our PICK (Head Meets Heart) and LINKS (Rock Solid Marriage) courses as well as a course for engaged couples: Rock Solid Marriage Ready. You can learn more about our online courses here.

PICK & LINKS Grant Resources

Please download the documents throughout this webpage to help you through your grant writing process.  Also, feel free to contact us at for any guidance needed along the way.  We would be happy to assist with:

  • Ideas/suggestions for program implementation
  • Training information
  • Letters of support
  • Program evaluation and research design questions

PICK & LINKS Supplemental Topics

In 2020 funding announcement, the CRA highlighted 8 distinct activities to promote healthy marriages and relationships and has emphasized the new flexibility in implementing these activities (p. 4 of the funding announcement). This means that organizations can now implement combinations of the allowable activities to better serve the needs of program participants. 

In order to help grant-applicants take advantage of this flexibility, we are now offering several supplements to the PICK and LINKS programs. These supplements will cover most topics highlighted in the funding announcement and can be made available to all instructors in the PICK and LINKS courses. See the chart for details. These will be available upon request. Click here for a summary of the supplements. 

PICK Versions

The PICK program is available in several versions and each version has a corresponding workbook. See the available versions below.

  • Young Adult 
  • Military 
  • Spanish
  • Mandarin
  • Christian

PICK a Partner Resources

PICK with At-Risk Young Adults, High Schools & Colleges / Universities

The current funding announcement places emphasis on helping youth, specifically at-risk young adults. Click here for research on PICK with at-risk young adults. Additionally, the Love Thinks team has designed a model that incorporates strategies for how to implement the PICK program with high schoolers and college/university students. Love Thinks has already been helping coalitions that provide high schools and colleges with their educators certified in PICK, and this model expands that work in creative ways. See the description below of the model. Love Thinks has prepared a brochure that provides an overview of this suggested strategy and the research on PICK with youth. Please download that brochure here.

Research has suggested that the benefits of high school relationship education programs tend to diminish overtime, and most markedly when the students enter college. One reason this may happen is that the programs are viewed as “for high schoolers; not adults”. The model pictured suggests the following strategy:

Step 1. Coalitions and Non-profits have trained PICK certified instructors to provide PICK classes in multiple settings including High School settings.

Step 2. Colleges/Universities either teach the course material in a workshop or seminar course (e.g. 2 semester credits), or include the book (How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk) in an existing course. This gives college students exposure to the material and has consistently resulted in a desire among students to become certified to teach the program.

Step 3. Coalition Educators work with Colleges and Universities to provide PICK instructor certification classes for students with the discounted student instructor materials. Professors can also receive personal assistance from Dr. Van Epp with how to conduct the certification course in a university classroom.

Step 4. Provide practicum settings for students to co-facilitate or participate with certified educators in the facilitation of the PICK course. Incorporating college-age involvement with teaching peers or even participating in some capacity with coalition educators who facilitate the PICK program to high school students would bridge the gap between the teen years and young adulthood, as well as providing role models and broadening the impact of the PICK program and the important lessons in relationship education for young adults. 

PICK Research Instruments

PICK Research (make sure to view the most recent research at the top of this page)

PICK Research Study.  This is a published research study on the PICK program. An here is a quick explanation of the methods and findings. 

Overview of all PICK Research. This is a brochure that summarizes most of the research on PICK. 

Overview of Young Adult Research. This is a brochure that summarizes the PICK research with young adults.

High-Risk Young Adult Research. This is a summary of research on 150 high-risk young adults who attended the PICK course. 

PICK Research from Grand Rapids, MI. Here is the final report from Healthy Relationships and Healthy Marriages in Grand Rapids, MI. 

PICK Research from Michigan Healthy Marriage Coalition who used the PICK & LINKS programs in their previous grant.

PICK Longitudinal Preliminary Findings, Kansas State University. 

PICK Pre & Post Test Findings from Marriage Works! Ohio. Elizabeth New Life Center. This is an overview of the pre and post test findings from the use of the Love Thinks program, a combination of PICK & LINKS.

PICK Instructor Evaluations from United States Military.

PICK research summary.  Here is a written summary statement of the research on PICK.

The PICK a Partner program has been evaluated with several populations, all yielding positive results.  Approximately 57 participants of the PICK Program were examined longitudinally by the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University.  Results indicated that program participants learned: how to set boundaries for current and future partners; how to raise relationship standards with current and future partners; how to keep “jerks” at a distance; and the importance of taking time to get to know a potential partner’s background.  Results found that these participants continued to implement these lessons at the six month follow-up (Manning, Trella, Lyons, Gulbis, & du Toit, 2008). Similarly, longitudinal data from by Marriage Works! in Dayton, Ohio found that participants were significantly more satisfied with the communication in their relationships and their overall relationships following participation in the PICK program.  Additionally, 95% of the participants reported that they planned to use the information they learned in their relationships and 94% reported being very satisfied with the program.  Finally, in a study of single Army soldiers PICK participants were compared to a control group and PICK participants placed significantly more importance on getting to know a partner’s background, reported less constraining beliefs about marriage, felt more knowledgeable about developing a healthy relationship that will lead to a healthy marriage, and felt more confident in how to choose a partner. (Van Epp, Futris, Van Epp, & Campbell, 2008).  Instructors trained in the PICK program also indicated their satisfaction with the program.  Out of 631 military Chaplains trained in PICK a Partner, 97% believed that the PICK program will help singles build healthy relationships, 98% strongly agreed that the PICK program addresses relevant issues singles face, and 96% agreed that they were very satisfied with their training in the PICK program.   

PICK Misc Info

The PICK a Partner sample write-up for grant proposals. This document includes:

  • PICK program description
  • Appropriate target populations
  • An overview of the content
  • Formats
  • Training and Provider information

PICK Sessions. This document outlines the 5 sessions of the PICK program. A 10-lesson PICK program is also available.

PICK Populations. This document outlines the appropriate populations for the PICK program. 

Overview of certification. This document explains the certification process for the PICK program.

Promotional Packet.  This document contains all the pages from our promotional packet which provides general information about PICK, it’s credibility, it’s uses, and an overview of quick stats.

Couple LINKS Resources 

Overview of Couple LINKS course

J. Scott Crapo, Kay Bradford & Brian J. Higginbotham (2019): Preliminary Evaluation of the Couple LINKS Program, Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy

This description (below) is from the following published research article (references removed):

Preliminary Evaluation of the Couple LINKS Program
Scott Crapo, Kay Bradford & Brian J. Higginbotham
Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy

Couple LINKS (Lasting Intimacy through Nurturing, Knowledge, & Skills) have optional 5- or 10-lesson versions and are taught over 12+ hours (and up to 24 hours with supplements).

One notable reason for investigating the LINKS program is its unique perspective on addressing couple needs. Most Relationship Education (RE) programs are informed by behaviorist and social learning theories, and focus on skills training as an early intervention to adjust later marital trajectories. Although many programs are beginning to incorporate other theoretical perspectives, such as transformative processes and marital virtues, these other perspectives do not make up the core of the curricula.

The LINKS program, on the other hand, centers on bonding behaviors using a conceptual model known as the Relationship Attachment Model® (RAM), described in more detail later. On the surface, it appears much like other programs — it consists of five units of instruction, discussion, and a workbook and includes elements of skill learning — but has a wider theoretical base and focuses on specific aspects of couples relationships.

The RAM model. The RAM model defines the sense of love that a couple shares as a relationship bond, which is made of five dynamic bonds: know, trust, rely, commit, and touch. These dynamic bonds represent the ways in which couples can become closer, and increasing these bonds increases the overall relationship bond. Decreases in the bonds can cause imbalances in the relationship, and the LINKS course is designed to help teach couples to be aware of and to fix these imbalances. In the LINKS program (for couples), RAM is framed in terms of balancing and adjusting the relationship to keep it healthy and happy.

After being introduced to the RAM model in general, the participants in LINKS learn about its five dynamic bonds in detail. The first element—to know—is considered the most basic of the dynamic bonds. Participants are taught that knowing your partner is achieved through talk, togetherness, and time. They also learn communication skills and strategies. The second element—trust—is built from day-to-day interactions with that partner, which generates a sense of consistency and expectation. Participants learn to maintain positive mental images of one’s partner and how to rebuild trust where needed. Reliance—third aspect of the RAM—is the willingness and ability of the partners to meet each other’s needs and partners are taught to recognize and meet each other’s needs. The fourth element— commitment—is defined as a sense of belonging to one’s partner, and is reflected in a sense of the partner’s presence, even when the partner is not around. Participants learn about resiliency models and how to use life change and difficulties to increase commitment. Physical and sexual intimacy are covered under the fifth dynamic bond—touch. Intimacy is defined as being emotional and relational, in addition to being physical, and as a tool to renew relationships. Participants learn to understand and deal with differing sexual needs and drives in a relationship.

The Couple LINKS sample write-up for grant proposals. This document includes:

  • LINKS program description
  • Appropriate target populations
  • An overview of the content
  • Formats
  • Training and Provider information

LINKS Research Instruments

LINKS Research

The Couple LINKS program has been used extensively by coalitions with funds from the previous two Healthy Marriage Grants. The table to the right is a summary of several outcomes measured using Pre and Post test data. All of the measured outcomes demonstrated statistically significant improvement after completion of the Couple LINKS program. Email for more information.

Overview of LINKS Research. This is a brochure that summarizes most of the LINKS research.

Couple LINKS Research Summary: A research report on the Effectiveness of the Couple LINKS Relationship Education Program at the Elizabeth New Life Center in Dayton, Ohio.

LINKS Pre & Post Test Findings from Marriage Works! Ohio. Elizabeth New Life Center. This is an overview of the pre and post test findings from the use of the Love Thinks program, a combination of LINKS & PICK.

LINKS Research from the Michigan Healthy Marriage Coalition who used both PICK & LINKS programs in their previous grant.

LINKS Instructor Evaluations from the United States Military.

LINKS Misc Info

LINKS Populations. This document outlines the appropriate populations for the LINKS program. 

Overview of certification. This document explains the certification process for the LINKS program.

Our Home Runs, Home Run Dads, and Home Run Parents. 

Love Thinks offers a fatherhood parenting course, Home Run Dads, which is based on the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM). A research review of this course is found here.

An in-depth dissertation on the RAM is also located here.

The “Home Run Dads” course overview here focuses on cultivating strong bonds within a family and teaching both co-parenting and parenting skills.

“Our Home Runs” is a distinct course specifically for entire families to attend, cultivating strong and healthy relationships, structures, virtues, and skills. Click here for more information on the Our Home Runs program.

Our Home Runs research summary


**Again, please contact with any questions.

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