Finding a Diagnostician
Before you pick a diagnostician, get a current and thorough physical evaluation of your child. This will take care of two things. First, any physical illness that mimics or can cause depression will be detected. Second, a good mental health practitioner will ask you to get a physical exam for your child in order to rule out illness, and you will be one step ahead of the process. If you can, get your doctor to write a letter for you providing the state of your child's health.
When Your Pediatrician Is Hesitant
If your pediatrician does not wish to treat your child's depression, he is still one of the best referral sources for a good mental health professional. He relies on these professionals to work with him and usually knows their work. Because he is a trusted part of your family, so to speak, his referrals are typically sound and appropriate.
A good source of mental health recommendations is to contact a local university, if available, and ask for their psychology program. For a psychiatrist, call the closest medical school's psychiatry department. These institutions often graduate students who go on to live in the area. They will know of several acceptable places for you to start.
If you don't have a pediatrician or he doesn't have a referral for you, try a family physician. Like pediatricians, they are used to making such recommendations. Your insurance company can give you a referral, but the names on their lists are on what is called “preferred providers.” There is no reason to refer you to anyone who isn't on their lists, but this doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad referral. Schools also have a list of professionals they like to work with, but you have to be careful about this if you aren't ready for the school to know what is happening with your child.
Other Sources for Referrals
The best referrals, other than from your pediatrician, usually come from other parents or friends. Mental health professionals will tell you that their biggest source of referrals comes from word of mouth. In other words, satisfied “customers” are usually more than happy to give you the name of the person who helped them out. Don't be embarrassed to ask. Remember, the reason they know the name of a good mental health professional is because they or their children have been to see one.
The one place from which to avoid picking your treatment source is through the Yellow Pages. That does not mean there aren't good professionals listed here. Everyone who lists in the Yellow Pages pays for their advertisements. Unfortunately, not everyone who is listed is qualified to care for children, and like every other profession, some are not even reputable.