The objectives of this study were to 1) ascertain the importance of various aspects of depression care from the patient's perspective and 2) select items and scales for inclusion in a new instrument to measure primary care patients' attitudes toward and ratings of depression care. We used a cross-sectional survey at a university-based urban primary care clinic; the subjects were adult patients being recruited for a study of minor depression. To help prioritize attitudinal domains, including 126 items identified previously in focus groups, we asked patients to rate the importance of each aspect of depression care on a five-point scale. Items were ranked according to mean scores and the percentage of patients ranking the items as extremely important. The items were selected for inclusion in an instrument to measure patients' attitudes toward depression care based on their importance ratings. We performed reliability and validity testing of scales comprising the 30 most important items and a shortened version that includes 16 items. The sample included 76 patients (mean age 34.8 years; mean CES-D score, 22.2; 72% women; 36% African-American; 32% college graduates). Forty-six percent had visited a mental health professional in the past. The top 30 items for the overall sample came from the following domains: 1) health care providers' interpersonal skills, 2) primary care provider recognition of depression, 3) treatment effectiveness, 4) treatment problems, 5) patient understanding about treatment, 6) intrinsic spirituality, and 7) financial access to services. Scales comprising items from these domains show adequate internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha >0.70) as well as convergent and discriminant validity. We have designed a brief patient-centered instrument for measuring attitudes toward depression care that has evidence for internal item consistency reliability and discriminant validity.