Mental health patients in Roehampton have been receiving therapy from an unlikely source - a seven-year-old corn snake called Angel.

The five foot-long snake is used by the occupational therapy department at Huntercombe Hospital’s flagship centre to help address a number of complaints such low self esteem, emotional instability and confidence issues.

Angel is joined by a plethora of other furry therapists including Keira the dog and hamsters Lewis and Beau as part of the hospital’s successful animal-assisted therapy (AAT).

The patients have been responding well to the touch and feel of the snake, which has helped with confidence building, as well as giving them a sense of achievement.

Known for their placid characters, corn snakes are not venomous and are the most popular type of pet snake, they are also ideal in therapeutic settings because they enjoy being touched and learn to recognise their handler.

Based in Holybourne Avenue, the hospital, which has 38 patients, has been using trained and vetted animals for over two years and is very conscious of how the animals react to their role at the Huntercombe.

Rabbits and guinea pigs are also used in the programme and having a hugely positive effect on patient stress levels.

Louise Helsdown, occupational therapist at the Huntercombe, said: “To our patients, these animals provide a lifeline - the enjoyment of spending time with these animals really lifts their spirits and gives them a real sense of purpose to their day.

“As part of the therapy, they are an innovative and fantastic aid to the recovery process. Our priority is always the quality of our patient’s lives, through pioneering and specialist approaches.

One patient said: “Keira knows when I’m feeling down even before I do. I always look forward to our sessions with the animals, and they keep me focused and happy.”

Other clinics, including the Priory in north London, have pioneered "equine assisted psychotherapy" using horses to treat patients with anxiety and addiction.

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