Meet San Diego Psychologist Dr. Leslie Anderson of UCSD's Eating Disorders Center

San Diego psychologist Leslie Anderson, PhD, is a brilliant woman who is the director of training and a clinical associate professor at University of California San Diego’s (UCSD) Eating Disorder Center. I’ve gotten to know her through the Tuesday seminars at the center, which provide cutting-edge training for eating disorder professionals in the San Diego eating disorder community. I have attended other trainings by Dr. Anderson on using Dialectical Behavior Therapy for eating disorder treatment, which I’ve found incredibly helpful in my own practice. Dr. Anderson really knows her stuff!!! I deeply respect the work she is doing, both in her research and in her clinical work. She is very much advancing the field of eating disorder treatment.

Why did you choose to become an eating disorder specialist in San Diego? 

I moved to San Diego from Seattle, because I was so tired of the rain and ready to live somewhere sunny! Luckily for me, UCSD had recently opened an eating disorders program and was open to incorporating more Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which is the type of therapy I practice. 

What kind of treatment do you provide? 

I am a psychologist and clinical associate professor working with primary eating disorders patients in a partial hospital setting. My role is training director, so I also get to do lots of training and clinical supervision of students and junior therapists. When working with adults, I mainly do DBT, although I also incorporate lots of cognitive behavior therapy. When working with adolescents, I do a combination of DBT with Family-Based Treatment (FBT)

Besides eating disorders, what other co-occurring issues do you treat? 

People with eating disorders often have co-occurring anxiety, depression, suicidality, substance abuse, etc, and I don’t think you can treat eating disorders without helping people with these co-occurring disorders. In fact, I just edited a book about this very topic (see link below). Luckily, DBT provides a transdiagnostic approach to helping people stop behaviors associated with these conditions and find a life worth living.

How long have you been working with eating disorders overall, and how long have you been in San Diego? 
I have been working with eating disorders since 2006, and I came to San Diego in September 2010.

Who are your favorite types of clients to work with? 
I find that most patients with eating disorders are either reserved and perfectionistic, or emotionally expressive and dynamic. I like both personality types a lot! I probably have more in common with the first group, but love working with both.

What do you wish people knew about getting treatment for eating disorders? 

I wish people understood that eating disorders are serious disorders that can be lethal. It is important to get treatment early on rather than waiting until things have progressed and gotten worse. I also wish people understood the importance of getting evidence-based treatment. Eating disorders are tough to treat and it is crucial to seek treatment from experts who are well-trained in methods that are based in research.

Would you describe the types of research you’re involved with at the UCSD eating disorder program in San Diego?

Our center does lots of different kinds of research, and I have been most involved in our treatment outcomes research. We evaluate all of our patients (who are willing to participate) at admission, during treatment, at discharge, and at follow up. We want to find out if our treatment approach is working! We also want to find out how it is working; so for example, we have been able to look at questions like whether targeting emotion dysregulation results in better rates of eating disorder recovery. 

How could people participate in this research?
Whether or not you are a patient in our program, we have many research opportunities available and you can find out what you might be eligible for here.

You’ve also recently published a book. Congratulations! Would you describe a little bit about it and how people could buy a copy?

Thanks! The Clinical Handbook of Complex and Atypical Eating Disorders is my second book, and I am really proud of it! I noticed early on when treating eating disorders that few of them are “simple” cases of anorexia or bulimia that look just like they do in textbooks. Often people with eating disorders do not fit our stereotypic demographic of young, white and female. Or their symptoms are clearly disordered and dangerous but don’t fit the exact definition of anorexia or bulimia. And frequently, eating disorders are comorbid with other conditions, which makes treatment more complicated. So for this book we asked the experts to write chapters on to treat cases where the eating disorder is primary, but it is co-occurring with another disorder, or is a different demographic or clinical presentation than what a clinician might expect. I think the book is a really helpful resource for anyone who wants to learn more about how to approach these types of cases.  

How can people learn more and contact you? 

At the UCSD Eating Disorders Center, I run a weekly seminar on topics relevant to eating disorders treatment. We also offer more intensive trainings periodically. I do not have an outpatient practice; I only see patients who are in our PHP. However, people can contact me to be added to our email list where we announce these events, or to inquire about other training opportunities (landerson@ucsd.edu). 

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Thanks so much for reading my blog!  Have a wonderful week!  

Marianne :)

If you are struggling to find eating disorder treatment in San Diego give me a call for your free 15-minute phone consultation at (858) 699-3754, and I will help you get where you need to be!

You can find more information about me on Instagram @drmariannemiller or on my Facebook page.