Gonna start this story off counterintuitively by telling you there is no real duplicate for therapy. No candle offers human connection. No bath bomb guides you through a complex mental maze. No comfy PJs, no matter how cashmere, get you to the deep clarity of one-on-one work with a pro.
BUT! They can be an adjunct to individual therapy, says Shelby Castile, LMFT, founder of The OC Shrinks, an organization of mental health professionals in Orange County, California. “In-depth psychotherapy helps people deal with issues related to their mental health, which in turn affects the rest of their lives long-term,” she says. “Therapy dupes seem to be more focused on the short term. They can be a fun way to increase motivation and get people started on a more authentic approach to self-improvement.”
So what exactly is a “therapy dupe”? If you take it from TiKTokker @zoes_reads—who started the “therapy dupe” sound that’s been used nearly 50,000 times—it’s a stack of crisp new books. But according to the nearly 55 million videos using the hashtag #therapydupe, it’s anything and everything: from ice skating to beach-sitting, Sephora to Starbucks, lifting weights to getting tattoo’d, movie popcorn to colored pens, watching comfort shows to “buying cute pink things.”
In other words, what people consider therapy dupes is all over the place—which makes sense, because every person experiences therapy (in the general sense of the word) differently. “While it’s tough to replicate the feelings and vibe you have during and after a therapy session—feeling heard, and hopefully understood—I can see why certain items can promote feelings of calm and well-being,” says Lori Davis, Psy.D., clinical instructor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
Dr. Davis’s dupes include “an oversized, fresh-baked blueberry muffin or a reveal-it-all FaceTime convo with a confidante.” For former magazine editor Marina Khidekel, an early adoption of weighted blankets led her to start a business in the name of a therapy dupe.
Way back in the olden days of 2017, from her deputy editor position at Women’s Health, Khidekel began touting the sleep-boosting, anxiety-reducing benefits of weighted blankets before they’d gone mainstream. It was during that time she began concocting her concept for Hugimals, a line of weighted stuffed animals.
“I created Hugimals as a therapy dupe because weighted blankets were too hot for me, and my boyfriend was sick of me using his arm at night as a therapy dupe,” says Khidekel. Weighted in the arms and body, Hugimals use the same type of deep touch pressure that’s been found to calm the nervous system and reduce emotional overload. (If holding a baby is a therapy dupe for you, holding a Hugimal produces a similar feeling, say many people on the Interwebs.)
Therapy dupes could also work by serving as an “environmental cue”: Wear or use an item when you’re purposely trying to relax, say experts, and eventually that thing itself becomes a cue to relax. Perhaps why my morning oat latte is such an emotional salve?
Which segues me into my most recent therapy dupe, below, along with 20 others from a few of our favorite people in the wellness world. Remember: Like a root touch-up spray between hair-coloring appointments, these goodies are best used as between-therapy boosts, and what works for one person may not work for another. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a bit of chill here.
Spare by Prince Harry, $19.99
“Yes, yes, much has been made of Prince Harry using Elizabeth Arden cream on his nether regions, but there’s far more interesting stuff to focus on from his book, Spare. Like when the royal family refused to speak out about the rampant racism in the press toward Meghan Markle. Or how Harry for years couldn’t cry over Diana’s death—or even acknowledge it as real. Or Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the two paparazzi who stalked him continuously. Or his love of hard labor in Africa and the joy he gets shopping incognito for groceries.
“I listened to this audio book driving back and forth to Pennsylvania to see my boyfriend, and I can’t tell you how many times I cried. I was legit sobbing when the medium told him that Diana had a chuckle when Archie broke a Christmas ornament of the Queen. The short chapters are satisfying—you feel like you’ve accomplished something over and over!—and Harry’s voice soothing and cathartic.”
—Amy Keller Laird, founder of Mental and former Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health
Fuzzy Slippers and Mantra Cards
Minnetoka Lolo slides in Navy Unicorn, $36.95
“One of the things I do when I’m feeling overly anxious or overwhelmed after work is transition out of my shoes and put on my fuzzy slippers. It gives me the emotional sensation that I can put that work stress away and start to feel at ease. Working from home can blur lines between work and the safety of home. This helps with that transition. I even do it when I need a little mid-day breather. Plus, they are so colorful, I can’t help but smile.”
Power Thought Cards by Louise Hay, $17.99
“As a meditation teacher, I often turn to breath work to calm me. But sometimes I really can’t get out of my head. In those moments, I pull a mantra card from one of my favorite decks, and it can really help me to pivot my mindset by giving me something to focus my attention on.”
—Lindsey Benoit, CSCS, certified meditation teacher, and founder of The LAB Wellness
Cooling Sheets and Blanket
Pact Cool-Air Percale Sheet Set, from $150
Muslin Comfort The 365 Blanket, from $199.99
“I have an enormous bed, which is both wonderful and necessary, because on the average night there are up to five creatures sleeping on it. But as a certified insomniac, it’s really, really important to have my bed be a refuge, and that extends to the linens.
“I’ve fallen in love with the pairing of Pact’s Cool-Air Percale sheets (so lightweight yet cozy!) and Muslin Comfort’s oversized 365 Blanket, which actually reaches to the floor on all sides, thereby eliminating the anxiety associated with having to confront the tumbleweeds of pet hair that live under my bed. It’s specifically supposed to help with night sweats, which, as a peri-menopausal lady (good times!), I definitely require.”
—Jordan Reid, author of The Big Journal for Anxious People and founder of lifestyle blog Ramshackle Glam
321 Strong Foam Roller, $32.85
“By the end of the day, my body feels like concrete. So when I’m finally ready to just be, I throw on a show (current fave: Perry Mason) and grab my foam roller. It’s hard to think about much else. It can be intense but in a good way, and after 10 or 15 minutes I feel a little freer in my body and mind.”
—Elizabeth Shaw, health editor and editorial director at Linkwell Health
Poldina Pro Rechargeable LED Table Lamp by Zafferano America, from $159
“I have this tiny table lamp that I’ve put in my (meh) bathroom. Rather than overhead lights that feel sterile, I just roll with the lamp almost 24/7. The low lighting somehow makes my crappy bathroom feel more spa-like, and looking in the mirror is more of a mood than a microscope. It’s really life-changing, and can fit in the smallest of bathrooms!”
—Claire Adams, founder of COA, a digital marketing agency for beauty, wellness and design brands, and creator of I’m Outside, a forest-bathing-in-a-bottle spray
Evening Bath Soaks
Degree Maximum Recovery Exfoliating Boost Body Wash & Soak, $16.25
Moroccanoil Ambre Noir Shower Gel, $20“I am totally reliant on a bedtime bath to help me unwind at the end of the day. Even if it’s just a five-minute soak! It’s sort of like my nightcap. My normal state is always a little anxious and always a little sore—due to regular yoga practice and working at a computer—so a warm water soak really soothes my nerves and muscles. My all-time favorite bath products are the Sake Bath from Fresh and those dreamy little bath milk tablets from Chanel.
“But I tend to use the fancy stuff sparingly and reach for affordable body washes to soften the water and add some scent on most nights. (Also, gels don’t give you backne/buttne like some of the more pore-clogging bath products.) I’ve been loving the Degree Maximum Recovery Exfoliating Boost because it has epsom salts, and also Moroccanoil’s Ambre Noir Shower Gel, which has a sultry vibe.”
—Erica Metzger, beauty editor and creator of The Beauty Loop newsletter
Gucci Princetown Loafers, $1,090
“Are these Gucci Princetown Loafers some of the most impractical shoes on the planet? Indeed, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make me smile every time I slip them on. They’re insanely cozy and feel luxuriously decadent in all the best ways. It’s the shoe equivalent of the ‘treat yourself’ ethos, and honestly, taking care of your mental health is similarly all about prioritizing your needs—and wants.”
—Hannah Baxter, founder of the Anxiety Beer newsletter
“I have always felt so alone while living with multiple chronic conditions, and it has definitely taken a toll on my mental health. That’s until the Chronicon app, because now I have access to hundreds of amazing people who not only get what I am going through, but also want to live a full life like I do, even though they are navigating a lot with their health. It’s a fun, warm, and inspiring place to be, and it has really changed the way I navigate my own health on a daily basis.”
—Nitika Chopra, founder and CEO of Chronicon, a community for people with chronic health conditions
Nectar Memory Foam Mattress, King, $899
“My life and my husband’s life changed when I bought a new king-size mattress and a new bed. Normal King—not Alaskan, Texan, or Californian. The Nectar mattress-in-the-box was not only an improvement, but turned into a true safe haven. An escape. And I think we all need and deserve that.
“We not only have a great time in it—married 33 years and we still like each other—but we also get a lot done on that bed. We can watch The Bold and The Beautiful, keep two laptops and answer emails, post IG pics from our two phones, and our Yorkie can cuddle or have his own space. We can also just push it all to the side and snuggle.
“It’s a place where I think clearly and set my mind straight and focus. It’s comforting. I don’t know why it took me so long to make the switch. The icing was going to Home Goods and scoring a king set from Marimekko—I had to fight off two women for it.”
—Sasha Charnin Morrison, fashion editor, creative consultant, and author of Secrets of Stylists: An Insider’s Guide to Styling the Stars
Trovata Hagen Pullover in Mauve, $248, and Dusty Pant in Mauve, $268
“The Trovata velour track suit separates are soooo cozy! Hard pants amp up my anxiety! I want Mach-10 softness in all aspects of my life. My grandmother was a small and round marshmallow so she didn’t have any bones, and hugs with her were the warmest, softest, happiest hugs. I’m always looking for the soft places and people and things in life, literally and spiritually.”
—Emily Dougherty, beauty editor at Drew magazine
CBD Face Spritz
Aforé by Dr. Few CBD Effusive Soothing Skin Mist, $79
“When I feel my anxiety crescendoing, I reach for my favorite face mist: Aforé CBD Effusive Soothing Skin Mist, from plastic surgeon Dr. Julius Few’s thoughtful skin-care collection. Acute stress tends to flare my rosacea, turning my face hot and pink, and this antioxidant-infused spray offers the dual benefit of cooling my skin and calming my mind with a mix of green tea, citrus extracts, and cannabidiol (CBD), which has proven anti-inflammatory properties.
“It almost works like a topical beta blocker, momentarily dialing back the stress response. The other day, my 13-year-old grabbed it off my desk and casually spritzed her face while telling me about a nerve-wracking presentation she had to give. The sensation stopped her mid-sentence. She sighed deeply and said, ‘That stuff feels good.’ Exactly.”
—Jolene Edgar, beauty writer for Allure, Harper’s Bazaar, and more
Spin Bike and Muscle-Relaxing Products
SoulCycle At-Home Bike, $1,500
“My at-home SoulCycle bike and the Equinox app are my backup therapy. Before I started therapy, I would go into a small room in my house with no windows, turn off all the lights, and get on the bike—and it was like I was in this room with all of my thoughts and had to work through them on the bike. Sometimes I laughed, sometimes I balled my eyes out, sometimes I would literally SCREAM out loud; at the end, I always felt lighter. The adrenaline that boosts my dopamine is definitely a perk, so that I can walk out feeling cleansed.
“You don’t need an expensive at-home bike, though having the instructor on the TV in your face is definitely motivating. Before I had the actual at-home SoulCycle bike, I bought a Sunnyside fitness bike off Craigslist for $100, and would do free audios from my favorite SoulCycle instructor. It is the only thing that got me through the pandemic.
“Even before I got an actual bike, I’ve loved SoulCycle audios that lace heart rate-spiking HIIT workouts with motivational talks that boost your dopamine while also making you feel inspired. I still listen to those audios on my runs, because motivation paired with the dopamine high from a sweat paired with nature is like the trifecta of free therapy.
“Otherwise, CBD cream and a TENS machine do wonders for calming a tense AF body that’s tightened by heavy thoughts. Rapid Relief from Soul CBD is the jam; it’s an extra strength cooling cream, and I love the Omron healthcare pocket pain unit. I apply the cream to my shoulders and up my neck to my hairline; that’s where I hold most of my stress/stiffness/pain. Then I put the pads of the TENS machine between my shoulder blade and neck—that meatier part that’s between your shoulder blade and spine—and let it work its magic for 20 to 30 minutes.”
Omron Pocket Pain Pro TENS Therapy Pain Relief, $36.99
—Nikki Cagle, content creator and social media director for a healthcare brand
“My therapy dupe is a professional salon blowout. I find the service itself totally meditative! For me, there’s nothing quite as relaxing as getting my hair washed by someone else and then sitting in a chair zoning out—or, ok, scrolling through my phone—while the white noise of the blowdryer drones on.
“But the good hair day that results is the best part. It’s truly an instant mood booster for me. Not only does my hair become one less thing to worry about for the next week or so, but I find that when my hair looks shiny, smooth, bouncy, and frizz-free, I walk taller and just feel so much more confident. If my hair looks in control, I feel more in control—and happier.”
—Alyssa Hertzig, writer and beauty editor
Sunday Forever Mega Scented Reed Diffuser, $62
“I hate how most stick fragrance diffusers all look the same/cheesy. The Sunday Forever one is black with thick reeds and resembles a witch’s cauldron, IMO! I sit by it whenever I’m journaling. Feels less like I’m being your average emo and more like I’m casting spells. It’s so chic.”
—Theresa O’Rourke, health and food writer and editor
Jeff Warren 30 Day Mindfulness for Beginners on Calm, $41.99 for a year subscription
“I took [meditation instructor] Jeff Warren’s 30 Day Mindfulness for Beginners experience on the Calm app last month. I’d park in front of a pond and let the sound of his voice fill my tiny car. The whole experience was like letting myself rest in a snuggly cocoon. I got so many useful ideas and techniques from those 15-minute sessions that I’ve been able to use on my own, both during morning meditation but also in various moments of calm or distraction during the day.
“But then I missed his voice! And I’ve been chasing his daily tips and other experiences on his YouTube channel ever since. He has an extremely relatable way of explaining the uses and benefits of meditation, with a nod to the skeptic in all of us, with a solution for the listener who might not be feeling it.”
—Liz Vaccariello, editorial director at large for Organic Spa Media/Wellness Media Company
Le Labo Patchouli 24 Perfume Oil, $158
“Right now my therapy dupe is patchouli oil, which smells earthy, warm, musky, sweet, and spicy all at once. It was the first scent I wore as a baby goth. It reminds me of walking through a graveyard after school on an overcast day in my Doc Martens. When I want a dark, earthy, cozy-witch feeling, I dab a bit on my wrists and behind my ears.
“You can get patchouli essential oil in many health food stores. But I also love Le Labo’s fancy version. Dilute it in a carrier oil (I like fractionated liquid coconut oil).”
—Meirav Devash, Mental editor-at-large
Bearaby Cotton Napper, $249
“Right now I’m obsessed with my Bearaby weighted blanket. It’s 15 pounds and extremely comforting—there’s nothing like the feeling of crawling into bed and pulling the weighted blanket over me. It’s an immediate de-stressor and makes me feel like I’m melting into my mattress.
GOTTA WATCH: Is Your Weighted Blanket the Right Weight?
“It also helps me to fall asleep if I’m feeling anxious. I’d highly recommend it for anyone who struggles with sleep, or is just looking for extra cozy vibes as part of their nighttime routine.”
—Stella Stephanopoulos, creator of the Everyday Endorphins podcast
We’ll Never Tell You to ‘Just Calm Down’
Our weekly newsletter is cliché-free. Only legit tips and cool copes.
By completing this form you are signing up to receive our emails and can unsubscribe anytime.