PICK a Partner

How to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind

The PICK (Premarital, Interpersonal, Choices and Knowledge) a Partner program applies the RAM to singles’ romantic relationships. The program teaches two main points. First, how to pace the development of a relationship in a healthy way so that the love is blind syndrome is avoided. Second, the program teaches five areas to get to know about a partner that accurately predicts what they will be like in a long-term relationship. At the bottom of this page, check out the video of Dr. Van Epp’s keynote presentation at NARME on “Situationships”–a current dating trend.

Program Versions

  • Adult
  • Military
  • Christian
  • Young Adult
  • Spanish
  • Mandarin

Program Sessions

1: A Bird’s Eye View of Dating

This session begins with the reality that some people are just plain difficult to be with in a relationship… that not all romantic partners are equal. Three key red flags (warning signs) are identified and discussed, not to become judgemental, but rather to develop a healthy discernment and be a “good judge of another’s character.” Next, an 10,000 foot view of the major shifts that have had both a positive and negative impact on dating practices are explained. And finally, an introduction to the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM) empowers each individual with a practical tool to pace their relationships in safe and healthy ways. The RAM provides a logical sequence for how relationships can develop while exploring key target areas of getting to know each other. 

2: You Can’t Marry Jethro Without Gettin’ The Clampetts

Sessions two and three delve into the five key target areas to explore in a healthy dating relationship–they are like a dropdown box under the “know” in the RAM. These five areas are crucial to “get to know” and are referred to as both windows to look through and see the character of another, and mirrors to examine to better understand and improve oneself. In this session, the first two areas to explore, Family Background and the Maturity of the Conscience are discussed in large and small groups, and with enjoyable and engaging activities.

3: The Ingredients For The Recipe Of A Lasting Relationship

The last three areas to explore in a dating relationship are continued in this session: Compatibility Potential, Relationship Scripts, and Relationship Skills. Engaging discussions and small group activities provide a deeper look into the value of exploring these three predictors of an individual’s relational health and future relationship habits.

4: Why Is It That “Expectation Lead To Disappointments?”

In this session, the focus moves past what to get to know to the dynamics of the next two areas of the RAM : trust and reliance. A safe and secure trust can be built from what you know about another and tested out in how that person is there for you, their dependabilty (the level of “rely” in the RAM). On the other hand, many dating relationships become entrapping or vulnerable when there are extreme imbalances between what and how you know, trust, and rely on a dating partner. Relational risks can be identified and avoided by a more secure pacing of relationship when following the logical sequence of the “safe zone” described by the RAM.

5: Putting The Cart Before The Horse

In this session, the last two dynamic bonds of the RAM are examined: Commitment and Touch (both affectionate and sexual). They are best understood as relational within the context of the other three areas of the RAM, the extent that you know and trust another, and have proved out the dependability and reliability of that person. These two areas of dating relationships, the extent and boundaries of your investment/commitment and your sexual interactions, are often a source a great confusion and heartache. The trend to avoid conversations about DTR (defining the relationship) has only added to these risks. A healthy progression of commitment, conversations about commitment, cohabitation, and the benefits of marriage are examined and explored in small and large group activities/discussions. Session five continues with providing a gameplan for the intentional pacing of a physical relationship and how to avoid accelerated involvements where the bonds of the heart override the judgments of the mind.


Who is the PICK Program designed for?

The PICK program is intended for all ages of singles, from middle school aged to those who are in their twilight years. To date, the PICK program has been used with numerous populations. It has been taught in middle schools, high schools, universities, non-profit organizations, domestic violence shelters, churches, and in all branches of the military. The PICK program is also translated into Spanish and Mandarin and has been used in Spanish speaking communities as well as in Singapore.  Love Thinks offers several different workbooks for the PICK course: military, young adult, 5- or 10-lesson workbooks, and Christian. Published research from participants as well as from instructors has supported the applicability of the PICK program with diverse populations including: Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, low-income individuals, high-risk youth, and GLB individuals. Research has also validated the effectiveness with increasing confidence in healthy partner selection, relationship knowledge, increased and intentional boundaries in trust and sexual pacing, and increased conversations about relationship commitment and future plans. The PICK course has either 5 or 10 lessons, with each lesson between 90-120 minutes and easily meets the requirements of the minimum of 12-hours for Federal grants.

What are the PICK Workbooks?

The PICK workbooks are designed to be used either by individuals who are part of a group/class being taught by a certified instructor. This workbook contains the outlines of the sessions of the PICK Program, the graphics used in the power point, many discussion and self-reflection questions, and the 99 questions to explore in a romantic relationship. They are several versions of PICK workbooks: adult, military, young adult, C-PICK (Christian), 5- or 10-lesson, Spanish, Mandarin.

What are the C-PICK Workbooks?

The PICK Program is a non-religious curriculum that is used in many settings including by state and federal grantees, and in educational, military, and social agency settings. It is also taught in church settings (see www.RAMseries.com for alternative small group versions for Churches). The C-PICK workbook contains the entire PICK workbook, but has an additional Bible study on each of the sessions. These Bible studies sections in the C-PICK curriculum show the congruence between the pycho-social research used within the PICK Program and Christian principles. Many certified instructors in church settings use the C-PICK workbook when they facilitate PICK in classes and retreats.

What are the “teaching” video clips?

The PICK 9.0 powerpoint (required certification training in the PICK 9.0 updated version) has 3-6 minute video clips of Dr. John Van Epp and Dr. Morgan Cutlip. The certified instructors in PICK 9.0 can show these clips to help facilitate the content of the course. This has standardized much of the content and also relieved instructors from explaining all concepts. It also breaks up the course presentation and includes some interviews with single individuals about topics in the course session. Certified instructors have the choice to use all, some, or none of these clips because their lesson plans also provide them with the instructions of how to present the content in the clips through their facilitation.

How do I become a certified instructor?

Certification can occur in one of two ways. First, Dr. Van Epp conducts live certification trainings that you can attend. These training workshops included the purchase of the Instructor’s Certification Packet. The second way that you can become certified is by attending a live virtual training by Dr. Van Epp. This training also includes the Instructor’s Certification Packet (ICP) from the PICK Products page online. This packet includes a streamed video presentation of the instructor’s course for review, access to the instructor’s section of this website where you can download power points, and supplemental resources to the PICK curriculum.

Is there research on the PICK Program?

Yes. Studies on the PICK Program have been conducted and published in a peer reviewed journals, you can find them here. Also, an overview of most of the PICK research was compiled in a downloadable book here. Also, please feel free to visit our research section to learn more.


Click here to read what others have to say about the PICK program.

This video is Dr. Van Epp’s keynote presentation at the 2023 National Alliance of Relationship and Marriage Education (NARME) on the topic of “Situationships” as a contemporary dating trend. 

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